When to stop?

I have been waiting to write this post until the perfect time. Now with a cinnamon roll in my belly and a cup of tea by my side, I want to share what’s been brewing in my heart for a couple of months now.  It’s about when to stop, and includes a few ideas on how to stop.

IMG_8208I took this photo expressly for you as I had to stop at this one lane bridge. I’ve been across it exactly eight times as I traveled back and forth to a class called: Enchantivism: Changing the World with Story, Myth and Inspiration at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The class was taught by Dr. Craig Chalquist. (Check out his site for lots of free resources on an alternative to in-your-face activism to help heal the world.)

The bridge above is meant for two-way traffic but only has room for one car going one direction at a time. It’s located on a dark and curvy road in the mountains. Each time I stopped at the line, I peered over the dashboard to see if there were headlights on the other side of the bridge. I had a car waiting on the other side only once. I let the car cross over the bridge before me, then I took my turn.

It got my thinking about how in life, I wish there were stop signs more often. As a hypervigilant overfunctioning planner geek, I also wish that I could see what was mapped out far in advance. But this isn’t always the case. That’s why, a few years ago, I created this Made of Stars Meditation to Trust in the Divine Plan.

The bridge experience also felt like a reminder of how far I’ve come in breaking ancestral patterns. Say what? Basically, there are habits that we all learn from our families, living and deceased, which can help or hinder us.

Can you think of anything you learned from your immediate or extended family? Any habits? Here are a couple of ideas:

Fear of...you name it – the dark, spiders, driving on highways, heights – some of these fears may be uniquely yours, but some may be learned. Pause and think about it. When did you first decide to be afraid of that?

Mistrust of...a certain race, ethnicity, political party – some of these experiences are founded on interactions with others and/or oppression by others. These experiences are real and painful. Did you know about Daryl Davis? He’s the subject of the documentary Accidental Courtesy. I learned about him in class. He’s a keyboardist who has played with Chuck Berry and Little Richard. After a gig in an all-white venue, an audience member approached Davis to compliment him on his set. As they struck up a conversation, Davis learned that the individual was a card-carrying member of the KKK who eventually gave up his membership and turned over his ceremonial robes to Davis. Davis now has a garage full of ceremonial robes from a number of individuals who renounced their membership in an effort to unlearn the prejudice passed down from generation to generation.

Even while watching the promotional video for the film, I felt fear run through my body when I saw KKK members and their actions. I’m not suggesting that you go out and befriend Klan members. Racism is real, scary and dangerous. And there are many great and resourceful organizations who are breaking down those barriers.

But what can we do to find common ground with people we encounter who may not share similar world views?

The U.S. is more divided now than ever before. I live in a small town and find myself crossing paths with people who voted differently in the presidential election, for starters. According to Brené Brown’s most recent research in her new book, Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging, more of us are living in communities with like-minded people. This is a problem. We are no longer asked to find common ground with our neighbors because often, we hold all of the same views.

Do you feel like you belong? Do you feel lonely sometimes? This quote by Dr. Maya Angelou frustrated Brown for years. It was a key piece in unraveling the quest for belonging and the key to standing alone.

You are only free when you realize you belong no place–you belong every place–no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

One central idea is to belong to yourself. And also also how can we find ways to create real connections with others?

Here are four of the specific research-based steps recommended by Brown:

People are hard to hate close up. Move In.

Speak truth to bull****. Be civil.

Hold hands. With Strangers.

Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

You can dig deeper on this by reading her book (it’s only 161 pages) or you can watch this great interview with Lewis Howes.

But let’s get back to what happens when we stop and pause. Let’s think about how to break the patterns that no longer serve us. Here’s what I’ve been doing more of in the last few months:

  1. Observe the story like a movie: I have spent years getting triggered by conversations with someone in my life. Just this week, I saw it about to happen and I was able to watch the story unravel and pause my normal (inside my head reaction, “here we go again”) and instead, just say, “Okay, this is what we’re doing. And I don’t have to let it hurt me.” This keeps me from labeling him a narcissist and lets the moment simply pass. It’s that labeling which adds to the act of dehumanizing. I dipped into compassion and noticed that just listening to him was my act of service. (I still maintain boundaries in the relationship and don’t seek him out if I want to be seen and heard.) As a result, I left the conversation lighter.
  2. Plug in and recharge: I’ve tapped into Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map approach to creating Core Desired Feelings year after year. She has a cool graphic maker here. Core Desired Feelings are simply feelings you choose to dictate how you want to feel every day. One of mine is “Earth-Connected.” When I go outside and connect with nature, even for a few minutes in my backyard standing still or tending my small container garden, I am recharged. The other thing I do is plug in my sound-activated dance light every morning before turning on my computer. Then I play music and dance if I feel like it. Other times I choose quiet yoga or pull a few cards.
  3. The Outbreath: I’m a member of Lindsay Pera’s Mystic’s Society and one simple concept I’ve learned from her is the “outbreath.” In between work tasks, running errands, phone calls or any activity, I often pause and simply breathe with a focus on the exhale to signal my body, heart and mind that I’m transitioning to a new activity. This has helped me a lot with adrenal stress and also emotional eating because I’m more conscious of whether I’m actually hungry or procrastinating from the next task by foraging in the fridge or pantry.
  4. In the dark questions: If you’ve read my blog for some time, you know that I often suggest meditation and prayer as a key to designing your life. Well, we know that sitting still is not always easy. I’ve started a new practice of waking up and in my dark bedroom, and simply asking, “What do you want me to know today?” You can ask that question of your ancestors, whichever God you worship or of your own inner guru, as my yoga teacher and friend, Carrie Hensley, always says. Sometimes I just hear one word like, “shine” or “be free” or “trust.” Though this process may feel uncomfortable when you read about it, just try it when you’re half asleep and see what words come to mind. Then when I lift myself up out of bed and my feet touch the floor, I simply say, “Thank you.”  I offer gratitude for being above dirt another day.

An additional frame of reference you may want to consider comes from Brown’s previous book Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Her acronym for BRAVING has been a source of helping me craft the best boundaries to suit how I design and live my life.

B – Boundaries
R – Reliability
A – Accountability
V – Vault (keeping confidences and not speaking out of turn*)
I – Integrity
N – Non-judgement (ask for what you need and accept what others need without judging them)
G – Generosity (not jumping to negative assumptions about the intention of others)

*A nuance of the Vault which you’ll hear about in the interview with Lewis Howes is that keeping confidences also includes not telling other people’s stories. She doesn’t just mean gossip here, it also means avoiding telling other people’s business even if you have the mask of caring while sharing. Brown refers to that as using other people’s stories as currency.


Finally, I’ve had tons of fun with the stars lately. I love the app called Skyview. It allows me to look at the stars and identify the constellations. Last night, I took a walk alone under the moonlight (to connect with nature) and it was breathtaking. I came across the constellation, Andromeda and after taking the course I referenced above, I had to research her story. Often when we come across myths, they either resonate right away or they may be a bit irritating. When I first started to read her story here, I rolled my eyes. I thought, “Come on, I don’t want another man slays the dragon and saves the princess story!” But then I paused and observed my own reaction and looked a little more deeply. Andromeda is chained to a rock to atone for her mother’s sin of thinking she was the most beautiful. And I thought about ancestral patterning.

I thought about what I’ve been taught to fear and what self-imposed limitations I’ve embraced through the influence of family, tribes of friends or colleagues and culture.

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Remember, there are signs everywhere, in story, myth and even as you drive down the road. Here’s a Golden Thread Meditation I made in a sacred grove of trees to tap into your own ancestors and to remember YOU ARE LOVED every single day.

I’ve realized I’m not chained to a rock by my past and I don’t need someone to slay a sea dragon for me. I’ve got my own sword, and it comes in the form of my bold beautiful heart.

Use yours.

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Here’s some additional beauty from the mountains of Pacifica Graduate Institute. Email me at rebeccainspiresnow@gmail.com if you’d like to work together to create your vision for the future and map out concrete steps to get there. I’m working with a handful of individuals before the end of the year. For more on how I came to offer this opportunity, check out this post.

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Some Sunshine for Your Week – radio recording, new poem & more!


Hello Beautiful People!

It’s such a thrill to share the recording from my recent fun and inspiring interview on KCSB 91.9 FM with LP on her Writers Almanac West program. If you didn’t get a chance to listen, and you want a dose of inspiration and a break from the negative news cycle, click here to listen on Soundcloud and here to listen on Podmatic. Both are downloadable! (Note: Jump to the 2 minute mark to skip the intro reading of Paul Simon’s Sound of Silence.)

We talked about all of my favorite things: food, poetry (I read a new poem at the end!), my novel, The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón and the plans for the sequel. We also talk about staying in love, faith and hope for all humanity. If you find yourself curious about the many resources and books I mention during the show, I’ve added links to just about every topic mentioned at the bottom of this post.

Also below is a short “Broadcast from the Beach” expressing my gratitude for your support. I recorded it for you right after I wrote the poem “Birdfight” in the previous post.

In the video, I mention a luxurious time binge-reading the poet Mary Oliver, at my friend’s house. Here’s a poem I wrote about that experience:

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On Reading Mary Oliver in Bed

I eat your poems

between bites of fig-filled cakes

or are they cookies?

forgetting to chew

because your words make me hungrier

for solace and weeping

for herons


moose faces

and querying the soul


the chicory and hot milk

burn my throat

but I can’t stop devouring line

after line

fearful my gluttony

will spill on the white down comfortor

of my momentary retreat


how do you take a Sunday morning and make it urgent?

Volumes One and Two

and Felicity

again I want to be haunted by

all the space

on the page

your succinct seventy-seven year old

plunge into Cobb Creek

and your truth-telling of a girl raging

in dark corners

or the soul stolen from the blue Iris

I must go now,

for this pen is distracting

from my voracious consumption

If you’ve never read Oliver, here’s a link to some of her poems. There’s also a rare interview with her on the NPR program, On Being.

For those of you interested in writing or any other seemingly dreamy, yet filled with reality, kind of pursuit, this interview with the writer Cheryl Strayed was very inspiring to me. She’s so honest about the fact that she doesn’t write every day and also about her struggles with money. I have watched or listened to it at least 7 ½ times.

Links I mentioned in the Writer’s Almanac West radio interview

My website for The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship is rebeccavillarreal.com.  We have a page with links from the topics in the book and an area where you can sign up to receive the free Tribe and Family Book Club Guide via email. The book is available via Teaching For Change (they get 5% of net profits), Amazon, Independent Book Stores, iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

You can read and listen to the opening poem Bound here and The Slowdown—a parenting poem, here.

The Slow Food movement can be found here.

Those fish-shaped crackers and why they are not great to eat–more info can be found here. What I mentioned about the way wheat is treated with pesticides in the U.S. is covered here. And there’s more from Robyn O’Brien about the 2.6 Billion pounds of Monsanto’s Glysophate (which is linked to Cancer) sprayed on American farmlands.

CarrieHensley.com and info about her Sacred Sangha is here.

LindsayPera.com and The Mystic’s Society is here.

Brené Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame are here and here.

There’s an NPR interview with Mario Martinez about his book The Mind Body Code and the concept of tribal shame here.

Whatever you do, try to find a way to watch Trevor Noah’s special “Afraid of the Dark” on Netflix. (Note: this is meant for adult audiences.) The official trailer is here.

One of my chosen teachers is the Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The first book I was every exposed to by him is Living Buddha, Living Christ. I reference a number of his other books in “aisle 4” of this previous blog post.

Here’s the post where I did a round-up of all of my recorded meditations.

I mention my connection to Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brainers in Business and an interview she did with SARK. We talked about creating inner characters to help deal with uncomfortable emotions. Here’s a post I did about Matilda, one of my characters and another about My Noisy Neighbor, Fear.

I also mention Drop Out on Orcas by the poet, Jennifer Brennock which I’m not sure it exists in the same form, but just in case, here’s the site.

Well, my friends, that’s a wrap! I hope you’ve enjoyed hanging out with me. I’m sending you love and some delicious food and time in nature for this week! Nourish yourself, you deserve it!

From Outlet to Outlight


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


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.


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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Put Your Wholehearted Pants On

Friends, this vlog post has been bursting out of me. You’ll see why. And yes, I’m scared to share it. But I’ve come to the point where it’s no longer optional. So here goes:

In the video, you’ll hear me talk about the following people and resources which have helped me to take small, measured steps into wholehearted living.


Me & Carrie Hensley–my favorite yoga teacher and one of my best friends in the world. 

Do you want to get stronger inside and out? Making me stronger than ever before: It started with the 30-day yoga un-challenge by one of my best friends, Carrie Hensley. It’s free. It starts September 1. And guess what, it’s okay if you miss some days! You can sign up here.

Have you always wanted to write a novel?  Beth Barany has been a wonderful coach to me, helping me unravel Selma’s story and get extra curious about my characters. Her “30-Day Writing Challenge for Novelists” runs October 1-30. And after that, you’ll have lifetime access to the materials. She’s even providing three bonuses for those who purchase the course by August 31. Beth also offers scholarship applications until August 31 at 9pm Pacific Time. If you want to get a sense of Beth’s style (and that of her awesome husband, Ezra), you can sign up for her webinar replay here. The webinar is called Planning Your Novel: Essential Plot & Character Tips. Check out the course details here.

Do you want to live a wholehearted life? Yesterday, I signed up for The Wisdom of Story course by Courage Works with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton. Check out the course here. Use the promo code WARRIOR to get 20% off. I did!

Specific goals of the course include:

  • Identify the “bru-tiful” (brutal + beautiful) adventure that you’re on. Maybe it’s your job or your role as a parent or partner. It can even be a life stage.
  • Use the classic three-act story framework as a powerful tool to create awareness around the connection between your thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
  • Learn the “rules of the world” – these are the expectations and messages that fuel shame and often provide the conflicts in many of our stories.
  • Discover why owning your story of struggle, whether heartbreak, disappointment or failure gives you the power to write your own daring ending.
  • Identify how the wisdom of story has the power to make a difference in the world.

For some of my favorite Brené Brown resources, check out “aisle 2” in this post.

Kick tribal shame to the curb.

I talk about tribal shame in this blog post specifically in #2 in the bottom of the post. This is also when I just scratched the surface of what it is to allow joy & sadness to coexist inside of your heart without fighting them.

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Remember, I love you with my whole heart. Bring yours to the table. Plant it and see what grows. I promise, it’s going to be BEAUTIFUL.

The music sampled in the background of my video is from the brilliant soundtrack by Sondre Lerche to one of my favorite Wholehearted movies, Dan in Real Life.

Finding Contentment in Sadness and the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Planet

I took you on my hike this morning and shared some of the helpful tools I’ve learned and applied in the last few weeks. I edited together all the nuggets plus a 15 second avocado meditation at the end! You can view the video here.


Some of the resources which I mentioned are included below:

  1. On allowing your feelings to move through you (rather than burying them with social media, food, TV, alcohol or busyness): Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a game-changer when it comes to allowing your feelings to move through you—especially conflicting feelings. The book has been pivotal for me in terms of changing my relationship to recurring themes in my life.
  2. On forgiveness and healing: I mention this SuperSoul Session by Caroline Myss, 7 Myths and 7 Truths about Healing which can be viewed here. While I’m a fan of Myss’ work, I don’t always like her tone or delivery, but this short talk is well worth it, especially the ending. It contains that apology and forgiveness exercise which I referenced on the mountain.
  3. On letting go of the effort to control outcomes: Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead and Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender – both books are by Tosha Silver and can be found here. These books have felt like they have saved me–from my own thoughts–in the last few weeks. People tell you to surrender all the time, but she does it with such humor and great anecdotes to model it again and again.
  4. On letting go of anticipating and being prepared for every scenario: If you want to know more about the concept of hypervigilance, I really like this post titled Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence by Bethany Webster. The concepts also apply to sons, so if you’re a man reading this, it’s worth taking the time to click on the link.
  5. On boundaries which are essential to employ the tools outlined on my hike: I don’t mention boundaries in the video, but I did ask myself on the way home, “what’s missing?” “What else can I share to help folks test these tools in their own lives?” The most powerful tool for me has been to make boundaries, even with the people I love. Here’s one of my favorite short (6 minutes) videos by Brene Brown on that topic. 

I love you.







Making Your Dreams Real & 100 Thank Yous!


Readers and beautiful ones! I want to say thank you for buying more than 100 copies of The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship! Since we published the book on August 8, I set a goal of selling 100 books by September 30. Whether you bought one, told someone about it or shared it on social media, thank you! You can read all about why I wrote the book on my new website here. If you want to know the answer to “What if you could travel the world, go back in time, and eat your favorite foods along the way, all the while unraveling the mystery of your missing parents?” click here.

I’ve written this post with so much love and a desire to visit with you via video. That’s why I’ve compiled moments in the journey all together in this post. More than anything I hope this inspires you to go for your own dreams. No desire is too big or too small! That’s why I included a never-before-seen video of my own vision wall at the end. Here’s an appreciation video I made for you during my lunch break.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this beautiful story took me ten years to finish. To take you back to the moment we published the book, I’m sharing a video of me popping the cork to celebrate.

Here’s another video we created the weekend of publication which includes a delicious sweet potato pancake cooking lesson thanks to my favorite Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook by the amazing entrepreneur Mayi Carles.

It’s been so rewarding to read a mom’s Facebook post telling me that her daughter is staying up wait too late because she can’t stop reading Selma. And for a reader to send me this picture saying that she made a date night just for herself alone to read the book.

Selma Eat and Read Party

The reviews have been amazing! Here are some excerpts:

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

Signed copies!

And speaking of stockings or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or any holiday, we now have a team ready to send you signed copies! Please send an email to team@rebeccavillarreal.com and we’ll send you a form. The book is $12 and U.S. shipping rates for one copy are as follows: Media Mail $4; First Class: $5; Priority Mail: $8.50. Once we get your order, we’ll calculate shipping one or multiple copies to you and your loved ones.

I’m a HUGE supporter of independent book stores. You can purchase Selma through your local independent books store by searching and ordering here.

It’s also available on: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Nook.

Stay tuned in the coming months, we’ll be announcing which organization shall receive 5% of all net profits from Selma!

Creating Your Own Vision and Making Your Dreams Real

And here’s the treat I promised at the top of this post. Remember how I moved across country from Chicago to California? That was part of a very big and beautiful dream I held for 20 years. I kept wishing for it and working toward it.

A key step in getting me closer to how I wanted my life to look was to forgive others and myself any and all hurts and disappointments. It sounds simple and we know it’s not but it clears the way for so much yes in your life. I wrote a post about forgiveness here and shared resources related to forgiveness here.

The other way was to constantly declare my intentions either to my loved ones or to my broader family here on this blog. You saw me apply for a scholarship and very nervously and excitedly declare that I’d finish the book. The other thing I did was surround myself with images that supported my dream. Here is an intimate tour of my giant vision wall while which was built over time at my home in Chicago.

Everyone has a recommended approach to visualizing your best future. You are the best judge of that. Monday, October 12 is the new moon. No matter what you believe in the world, we all live in the same one. Here’s what I’d like to share about this moment: You are worthy. As we move into a new phase, take a moment to sit with that. You deserve joy, happiness and a rich life. Think about how you want to feel.*

One recent interview I enjoyed which helped me break through some of my own fears, is this “Big Strong Magic” interview by author Elizabeth Gilbert of researcher and storyteller Brené Brown. If you have little ones, put on your headphones because there is some adult language in it. There’s an entire podcast series on this available on iTunes and Soundcloud. You can listen to the interview here.**

I love learning about and creating my own rituals alone and with my family. Tonight’s a great night to do that. Or tomorrow night with the new moon. What if you took some time to write down a few old hurts rip them up and toss them in the trash then write some new gratitude lists or wishes for your new beginning? I’m on Day 53 of a #yearofgratitude. You can follow my journey on Instagram and start your own journey!

Please keep sharing your Selma love with her magical hashtag #cucalacas!

Thank you again for your generosity in helping my dreams come true. I hope my vision wall and these words open up a bright space for you to reflect and set some intentions for your best life ever!

With love and gratitude,


*P.S. A fun free tool to help you visualize how you want to feel is the Desire Map Core Desired Feelings library and graphic maker. I used the latter for my vision wall.

**P.P.S. I can’t help but encourage you to read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Rising Strong by Brené Brown. If you visit Brené’s site, watch her brief book trailer video including the Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted. And I can’t help sharing her interview on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I broke through some MAJOR fear when I watched it. Enjoy!

Flim Flam!

Flim Flam by Rebecca Villarreal [painter unknown]

Flim Flam! To listen to the pronunciation, click here.

Definition: the state of chaos, mess and disarray in the face of feelings, thoughts, back spasms, flat tires, house leaks, crashed computers and all manner of nonsense. Also known as the cosmic joke; Universe and/or God and/or your higher power guiding you and/or testing you.

Have you ever been just sailing along [finally] when all of a sudden, BOOM! Everything is hitting the fan? You want to shake your fist in the air. You want to blame somebody. Or even better yet, how about when nothing is actually wrong but your thoughts and feelings make you feel unsafe or irritated with anyone who doesn’t see the world the way you do? That, my friends, is Flim Flam! I had Marge record it for you. Who’s Marge? She’s the voice in my head, kind of like Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket. But, Marge is usually right. After the fact, when I’ve over-planned or tried to anticipate every single scenario, she says, “See, that was just a bunch of Flim Flam! You didn’t have to put all that energy into worrying.”

The voice in your head may sound different.

Flim Flam has been incredibly helpful to me because it reminds me to LAUGH. Monica Garcia, of Divine Light Coaching, first coined the term, intonation and all. Here’s an example of recent Flim Flam action in my life: I was in the mix of preparing to move across country in late June. I had planned for a year. We had our mover, realtor, new school, new home all lined up. Right in the final weeks when work was busy, boxes still needed to be packed and final doctor’s appointments wrapped up, I received a bizarre diagnosis of an eye condition which I’ve had my whole life without knowing. Then I got a blocked tear duct and my eye swelled up to the point where I couldn’t read and was in bed for two days. That was Flim Flam for sure. I had to step away and surrender to my very swollen eye. And say no to lots of things I thought would get done. One of my dear friends said, “Only you would get a blocked tear duct when you were having trouble saying goodbye to people.” And I had to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

But then what? What if you struggle with the laugh? What if you’re so angry or disappointed about whatever is going wrong?

You want to blame yourself for the car breaking down because you never get regular maintenance check ups.

You can’t believe you missed another deadline at work because you just can’t get organized.

You writhe with guilt when buying a pair of shoes that you actually need to wear on your feet.

You look down at your belly and you feel disgust that you can’t keep the weight off. Ugh.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the cosmic joke. Sometimes it’s hard to find Marge. That’s shame, baby. And some of us feel it from ourselves, families, friends, colleagues and our communities of worship. Or it can happen just watching television. Why didn’t I invent the Pillow Pets? I’d be a millionaire by now!

One opportunity to address those feelings starts on August 8. It’s an e-course called Break the Toxic Shame Cycle: Become Your Best Self. The basic idea is to lighten your load by letting go of your old ways of looking at the world and healing your heart so that you can spend time and energy on what’s really important to you. The instructor is Maria Rodriguez, a clinical social worker, who over the last 28 years has amassed an astounding body of knowledge culminating in this e-course. She is one of the most loving people I know. Maria is kind and gentle and will help anyone on this path to freedom. Because feeling better (and not blaming and shaming yourself) means you’ll have time and energy to soar! Check out the details of Maria’s course here.

I also shared a number of additional resources on tribal shame (when family, friends and culture triggers those feelings) at the END of my post, Crack The Egg: How to Find Joy Amidst Conflicting Emotions.

So, even if we don’t have all of our triggers figured out (mine shows up in my shoulder blade), perhaps we can notice when they occur.

Then, try sitting with one of the most powerful lessons I learned from Maria last week:

“Just because I think it and feel it, doesn’t make it so.”

Or as Marge would say, “Flim Flam!”

**Painting of Marge the Hedgehog, artist unknown.**

I Love You More than a Boy Cheese Sandwich

Girl Cheese Sandwich by Rebecca Villarreal

How I’ve missed you! I have so much to share with you today. First, let me tell you why I love you more than a boy cheese sandwich. When I was a wee one, I thought grilled cheese was “girl cheese.” So a girl cheese with ham was a “boy cheese” sandwich. I love cheese.

True story: As a toddler, in order for my mom to get me to walk home from the “avenue” (where she went to the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker), she’d buy a pound of sliced muenster cheese. She’d take out that slice of cheese and hold it out in front of me. You get where this is going. I followed her home, eating slice after slice. Ergo, cheese = love.

Today, my act of love is to share some of the tools that have shaped my ability to love myself and you. For if I cannot love myself, how can I love you? Think of this post as a meander down your favorite aisles of the grocery store. If I was in the cheese section, for example, I might pick up my favorite Petite Basque, some shredded asiago and ask Robbie, my cheese guy, for some tips on a slightly stinky variety. My only hope is that you think about opening at least one of these gifts. Some are free and some are recommendations for books and courses.

Aisle 1: Forgiveness I’ve touched upon forgiveness before, but I have never known forgiveness like I know it now. Here’s what made all the difference: the e-course “Forgiveness with Iyanla: How to Forgive Everyone for Everything.” If you find yourself holding on to even the most minute grudges, this is for you. If you are hard on yourself, constantly striving and finding a level of internal criticism, (even mental abuse) for your behavior, thoughts, judgements, food choices, friendship or relationship choices, this course is for you. Basically, if you’re human and would like to begin to feel a flow in life that’s new and different, check it out here.  And if you’re not ready for the course, she has also recently released a book Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything.

Aisle 2: Relaxation Relax? How can you ask me to relax? I have so much to do! I am busy! I don’t have time for that, you, exercise, meditation, meal planning, writing, pursuing my dreams. Guess what, there is a way. Check out Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You AreShe helps us overachiever types learn, “I am imperfect and I am enough.” The chapters are short! If you haven’t seen her Ted talks, watch this one first and this one second.  And to get a sense of how wonderfully human she is, watch this short excerpt of a speech on blaming which was animated. It’s one of my favorite stories of hers and I think you’ll love it!

Or if you’re not a reader and you feel like taking an e-course on the your computer, tablet or phone, my husband and I have been enjoying her course called The Power of Vulnerability through Udemy. She also has a course on the book which I have not taken myself, but have had friends who have enjoyed it. You can view that information here.

Aisle 3: Meditation You only need 10 minutes a day for meditation or even less! Here are some of my favorite resources:

1. Insight Timer app: this app for your phone contains the most eclectic mix of guided meditation from 1 minute to 30 minutes and it’s free. My son and I often use this app to help us fall asleep.

2. Kirtan Kriya Meditation: You can purchase this on amazon or iTunes or do your own search. It’s been studied by Harvard and the National Institutes of Health for its impacts on age-related cognitive decline and depression. There’s a slide show here to learn more. You are expected to feel and see great energetic shifts if you do it for 40 days or more. I learned it in December and did the 13 minute version for 40 days and saw tremendous changes in the way people reacted to me, everywhere I went. It’s hard to explain the shift, but it’s a lot like winning the lottery for your heart and spirit.

3. 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey with Deva Premal and Miten: I first participated in this meditation for free through Mentors Channel. And guess what, there is a Vol II starting on February 14th! I’m so excited for us! I didn’t even know that until I was writing this post for you. Here’s the link to sign up! I purchased Volume 1 through iTunes because I enjoyed it so much. What’s fun about these meditations is that they are in Sanskrit, a language which is more than 5,000 years old. Deva and Miten explain a little bit about the mantra before we begin chanting to their beautiful music. Sometimes I just listen to it rather than chant along if I can’t keep up. I do it in the morning, on the bus, on the L and even while walking. Ideally you are still for meditation, but I’ve learned to make it work with my lifestyle.

(**This just in: Oprah and Deepak Chopra just announced a new free 21-Day series called “Manifesting Success” beginning on March 16. You can sign up here. I’ve enjoyed several of their free meditations before. For first timers, this may be an easier starter than the chanting above.)

Aisle 4: Spirit Vacation I’ve recently experienced a revolution in my faith. You don’t have to believe in a certain God to read on. I’m not going to suggest that you take my path up the mountain, I’m suggesting “seeking” as a kind of vacation. Here are some resources to help you explore the freedom of letting go.

1. Thich Nhat Hanh: I’m recommending several books by this Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize: Teachings on Love (which I’ve never read in a linear way–I just let the pages pick me). The meditations at the back are priceless especially Touching The Earth in Chapter 13. I also love his Living Buddha, Living Christ, The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation, Anger and No Death, No Fear, which is a priceless resource for any kind of grief.

2. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: A friend started snapping pictures of this daily devotional and sending them to me. It felt like back in the nineties when I read Simple Abundance but with God and a few excerpts from the Bible sprinkled in. My experience as a Catholic Buddhist is that I know very little about the Bible so this has been a fun way for me to learn more and also receive a single message every day which hinges on trust. Along a similar vein, I have recently enjoyed the e-book 9 Days to a Deeper Prayer Life with the Holy Spirit by Anne and John-Paul Deddens. It’s only 99 cents and it’s a lovely way to start my day by reading these short prayers on my phone.

3. The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish by Neil Douglas-Klotz: This is a wonderful book to use as an oracle. When you are feeling like you need some guidance, just let the pages fall open. When I opened it just now, it came up with “The ‘I Can’ Power of the Cosmos.” You’ll learn some incredibly powerful approaches to life that date way back and yet integrate multiple traditions. I’m still exploring this book as I write this. Each chapter is only approximately four pages long.

I hope you enjoyed this trip with me down the aisles of my spiritual grocery store. Remember that free samples are always available through Google. If someone appeals to you, find their website or Facebook page and sign up for email updates or “like” them. Then you’ll get those bite-sized chunks to taste.

Remember, I love you more than a boy cheese sandwich!

Boy Cheese Sandwich by Rebecca Villarreal PS: Now that I’ve made you crave a girl or boy cheese, check out one of my new favorite movies (which is on Netflix) – it’s Chef! And here’s the video of the making of the perfect girl cheese sandwich. (Note: adult language used in both videos.)

**I am not an affiliate of any of these resources so I don’t get anything but happiness knowing you may pick one for your heart.**

What’s Your Trigger?

I’m writing you while brewing garlic, purple onion, cardamom, ginger, honey and lemon tea. I’ve had a cold for about five days. I’ve tried to figure out how I got sick. Was it that I eased up on green juice? Was it that I started consuming more dairy? Or was it that I missed some vitamins? Didn’t rest enough? Did too much? What did I do?

Um, how about nothing? How about I just caught a cold? And I have to wait it out for days. Rest. Tea. Liquids. Binge reading.

I love reading. I love television too. Lately, I’ve been loading up on so many books at the library. Ripper by Isabel Allende. Five, Six, Seven Nate by Tim Federle. And I finally started a book I own: Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown. I recommend all three books. Crime novel, elementary fiction and a breakthrough book on vulnerability, shame, perfectionism and the courage to connect.

I’m only on page 90, but what I’ve found is that men and women both suffer from shame about not doing enough, being enough, enough, enough.

I once worked for someone with whom I did a subtle dance where I let her push me into working with such intensity that I would have trouble sleeping and perpetually get sick. I let her pull the trigger on my “if I just work hard enough, I can do enough to stay under the radar and not suffer her wrath” button. Hers was a wrath cloaked in disappointment and shame. Let me tell you, if this was a dance on a reality show, I’d win. I know every step. I know how to please and how to anticipate better than the highest ranking general in a war room. I know how to make moves to keep the peace, to my own detriment. (Man, I love mixing metaphors!)

I also know how to blame myself for not doing enough.

Guess what, I am learning to recognize those dance moves and stop. Stop the thoughts that trigger an old script. I am not actually in that movie anymore. I’ve created a life I love. I’ve created a life I deserve. Also known as, “I am worthy of happiness.”

What happens when people, even those you love, trigger an old script? My husband is reading the Brené Brown book as well. He started it when I was binging on elementary fiction. Lately, I’ve been going through a strange emotional regression at home and have fallen back into a weird needy pleasey annoying (my word because it’s even annoying me) behavior. He’s been saying, “I want my Rebecca Villarreal back.” And I’ve been looking at him cross-eyed, confused, saying, “I’m trying! I’m trying!”

I was meditating, doing yoga, exercising, working, being a good mom, trying to be intentional in my marriage. Striving, trying and exhausting myself. (You can see how I’d like to blame myself for being sick?)

Well, here’s the good news. Yesterday, I was reading Brene’s book and watched how shame, disappointment and a scarcity mentality were triggering that pleasing button. Scarcity is about thinking you can never do or be enough–the house isn’t clean enough, your work isn’t good enough, you’re not thin enough, smart enough. When you flip that thinking on its head, you end up with, “I am imperfect and I am enough.” Cool beans because that means you are worth a life full of love. Trust me, you are worthy.

Basically, by slowing down and being sick, I could actually watch things happen in my mind. I watched old thoughts pop up about doing more for my son or my husband, or doing more around the house. I started squinting my eyes and looking sideways at those thoughts and saying, that’s not what’s happening right now. You’re just a thought. Go away. And sometimes, I even laughed at those thoughts.

I told this to my husband yesterday through some snot-filled tears. And even some laughter. I pointed to the intensity of editing my book and making some major decisions about content, timing and release. And what I could humanly do given that I have a full-time job and family and life. I pointed to some childhood scenarios that didn’t exist, yet trained me for certain life sports: pleasing, keeping the peace, anticipating villainous and crazy moves. I have no reason to use those muscles now. So I’m in training, a sort of emotional Olympic training, to use my muscles of courage, connection, vulnerability and enoughness—also know as, IMPERFECTION.

So, dear friends, my tea is ready, I bid you adieu. If you have triggers or are trained in any sports or dances that no longer suit your life, or the life you want to create, I’m sending you a special wish for a new hobby. Connect with someone you trust. Tell that person: I’m choosing to use my courage muscle now. (Be aware that a lot of the fibers that make up that muscle are comprised of fear and that’s okay.)

A toast to you and your new week! Much love in perpetual pajamas,