Pick Your Powerful Nickname

You can also view the above video directly on YouTube by clicking here.

Did you grow up with a nickname? Did you always wish for one? Or maybe you wish you had a different one? In the 58-second video above, I’m inviting you to think of your very own nickname and live by it. You’d be surprised at what special skills you might acquire if you fully step into a new, or additional identity. You don’t have to tell anyone. My closest friends know me as Sydney for a certain spy character on television. And today, I unveil a new name which results in the sighting of a magical creature.

Pick your own nickname and your power. Keep it a secret or don’t, just step into it!

[Big thanks to my buds at Atlas Stationers for the props and space. Visit atlasstationers.com or the actual store, one of my Chicago faves, at 227 West Lake Street. And gratitude to my talented crew on and off camera!]

As we forgive those…

You have so much power. You have the power to choose what you eat, how you exercise your body, and how and who you forgive, even if it’s yourself. Bear with me, I’m going to give you something so light, you’ll be breathing easier at the end of this post.

Sweet Forgiveness by Rebecca Villarreal

I went to confession this past Sunday. As you know from a past post on faith and boredom and another on divine noticing, I’m re-examining or reviving my spirituality. It’s been completely organic. I’m a bit unplugged about it intellectually at times, but it seems my spirit’s plugged in, even if I don’t always understand it in my mind.

That context is to tell you I seem to have completely forgotten things about religion. Like Catholics go to confession during Lent. It makes sense that the 40 days and nights prior to Easter, a time of rebirth and celebration, we would ask for forgiveness and absolution from our sins.

Lots of folks through the years have said to me in jest [somewhat], “Oh, you Catholics have it easy. You sin, then you go to confession and you get a fresh start.” Catholics, however, layer guilt like a yogurt parfait: one layer of forgiveness, a layer of residual guilt for the sin, a layer of Hail Mary in an act of contrition and so on. If you have never been to confession, it’s basically a chance, usually face-to-face these days, to speak to a priest. You tell him, “Bless me father, for I have sinned, it’s been x number of days since my last confession.” Then I think from my childhood days, you list the commandments you’ve broken. Since I’m not exactly on my game with all of the rules, I remembered the opening and then just honestly shared my struggles. I talked about the areas of my life where I’ve fallen. I asked for help—that is an incredible power. I asked for help to forgive. I know confessions are private. However, I’ve been woken at 5:00am to write to you, so I believe that I’m called to share this part of my confession. The priest was a little old school, yet firmly sitting in true Buddhist compassion for me. I could feel it. He said some wonderful things in response that were not perfunctory. And then he instructed me to say three prayers, one of which I didn’t know, so he gave me a pass on that one.

I went to the front of the church (this is after mass) and pulled a kneeler up to a saint’s statue. It was Saint Martin. Above him was St. Joseph and next to him was St. Cabrini, a woman. I was verklempt and crying quietly in this truly cleansing way. Then my mind took over and I started wondering about St. Martin and St. Cabrini. My cousin works at Cabrini College and that was my main mental reference. I didn’t even know there was a St. Cabrini. Then I started thinking about how saints are like the superheroes of the Catholic Church. I spend quite a bit of time now learning about Marvel and DC Comics superheroes and villains. I thought about how I need to research some of these saints. I bet they have cool powers. My tears had stopped during this mental adventure.

And then I remembered I just went to confession. I remembered that I had an assignment. So I began with a speedy rhythm to recite the “Our Father.” That prayer is one of the coolest during mass because we all link hands across the church and sing it. I can truly feel superpowers when linked with others in this prayer. It’s like grace-on-demand. So I’m in the midst of this prayer and I get to:

Give us this day, our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

And then I said, “Holy smoke!” and started crying again. I think I felt that prayer for the first time in my life. I glimpsed in my soul the idea that I truly want to be forgiven. And then [this is the holy smoke part], I want to be forgiven so much, the same way, that I want to forgive those who have trespassed against me.

Do you feel me?

I was astounded at the idea of true forgiveness and absolution. I felt lighter. I felt cleaner, clearer. What if I let go of all of these feelings? What if I forgave everyone who has hurt me in my whole entire life? What if I let go of the pain in my shoulder blade, the thoughts that drill in my head about people who have let me down. What if I applied that same compassion to myself in feeling all of that toward those whom I perceive have injured me in some way? What if I let go of the guilt? What if I dumped that yogurt parfait in the trash and started all over again?

What if I make a fresh dish in the kitchen of my soul? What would it look like? What are the ingredients to feel fresh and light?

My friends, you do not have to be Catholic or go to confession to lighten your load. Ask for help. Ask for forgiveness. Forgive those who have made the most egregious errors against you. Write it down. Keep it in a journal. Or use a piece of paper. Throw it away. Burn it if it makes you feel better.

Do you want to see how this manifests? I finished my prayers, my acts of contrition. I had received a text during mass which I could not open. And truthfully, I only check my phone during mass for family emergencies. I tried to check the text on the way out, but my old simple phone doesn’t always unlock. I pressed and pressed the button as I left the foyer. It didn’t open until I stepped outside into the sunlight.

I had received an apology text from a family member.

Again I say, “Wow.”

I wrote back, “I forgive you, Sweetness.”

Try it. Say it. I forgive you. Even if the you, is YOU. Taste the sweetness. It’s delicious. I promise.


Miracle at Monroe

In the middle of this week, my mind was so cluttered with lists, receipts, obligations, excitement, creativity and confusion, I felt as if I couldn’t see straight. I had a [self-imposed] deadline for an article at work, expense reports, family commitments and plain old life stuff. That morning, I sat in quiet and asked for help. I realized that I craved music and planned to listen to flamenco at work. Those sounds always stir my soul and creativity. I began an archeological dig, starting with my purse. I found expense report receipts along with a wider glimpse of mental clarity. I packed a backpack with my wallet, lunch and tossed in a stray dollar at the last minute. I took the “L” to Monroe station. Upon arrival, Christopher Pinot greeted me with his acoustic guitar. Smiling, I told myself to listen intently on the way out. Then I remembered that dollar and decided it was meant for him. So I walked away from the stairs and back to the music. And then I found rapture. Miracle. Belief that what I asked for came to me, live.

Listen and watch, for two minutes and twenty-nine seconds how Christopher brings light. His mastery, not only of the music, but of his environment is astounding. Like an athlete, his has a deft agility in reacting to his surroundings. His sweet, sweet music stirs your soul ’til you’re lifted into the whirl of his dervish.

I thanked him for sharing his immense talent and for choosing to show up in the world the way he does.

I thank YOU for sharing this moment with me.

Ask every day, my friend. Unclutter your thoughts. Make your lists. Open your eyes to the signs. The loose dollar. The quiet contentment. The 2:29 spurts. This is your life. You can find art and peace everywhere. You can make them with every breath.

Faith, Boredom and Desire

El YunqueI’m having an ecstatic moment right now. It’s been swirling since 4:00am or maybe since I went to sleep. Really it started yesterday with this conversation.  (I am the mom.)

Son: I’m so excited that tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

Mom: I know! Me too! Remember, tomorrow we go to church in the evening.

Son: I don’t want to go to church.  Church is boring.

Mom: It is. I know. I like the people and the music and Father Jerry. I also like when the boring parts let me think about the things I want to think about.

Two things happened here. I am very conscious of telling the truth as I partner in raising this six-year-old human being.  (You can call me out on that when I talk about a couple of our magical rituals that bend traditional definitions of truth—the Tooth Fairy, who came to our house last night, for example.) So when my son has feelings or thoughts, I acknowledge them. It would be easy to deny his feelings and say, “It’s not boring. There are interesting things to learn if you just listen.” Or, “How can you be bored? I let you play with cars and coloring books at church.” I will leave my son’s spiritual development for another post since he has already taught me so much from his pure approach to faith.

The second thing that happened is that the conversation set off a path to a moment of clarity which is keeping me awake and which I am sharing with you right now. The truth is that I’ve spent my life on and off, bored at church. And I’ve had periods of not going at all.

When I go back to my faith community, for real, here’s what I find:

  1. Fleeting and sometimes binding instances of clarity
  2. An exalted spirit lifted by music
  3. A relaxation of my soul in the rituals I know
  4. A connection to a community of people lifting up the same prayers of hope that I hold in my heart, but can’t always name
  5. Moments of joy, grief, sorrow, love, laughter, a-ha knowledge

I am writing this to share my faith and boredom and desire. My desire is to create light in the world. Your path to light may be different than mine. I have faith that your path is right for you. I encourage you to find it. Seek it out. And give some of the traditions that you do know, some of the religions that you do know, a chance again.


Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddist monk told me (when I read his book), that I can embrace Buddhism and not chuck (my words) my own religious traditions. I had never thought about it that way. I have called myself a cafeteria Catholic because I pick and choose what works for me. I openly disagree with certain tenets of the Church. I spent six excellent years at a Quaker school going to weekly Meeting for Worship and sitting in silence until spirit urged me to speak. What if I took the good of my experience with religions for me and for my family and shared that? What if I took my faith to a new level? I didn’t know how to do that. So unconsciously, here’s what I did:

The Search for Clues 

I began studying. Not just books, but through conversations with people of different religious traditions and no religious traditions. And I chose to just pay attention to life and my inner voice. Is that God? My desire? Magical powers? Intuition? Do I have to name it? [Note: I called the examples below, “case studies” just for formatting purposes. I was not actually studying these folks, more loving them and looking to understand their way in the world.]  I have lots of friends who “do” lots of things.

Case Study #1: Buddhist Mama When I met her, she did not celebrate Christmas. I was told it was because she grew up in the Bible belt of the South and was turned off by her experience. She has since deeply explored (joined?) a Buddhist community. She has also become a mother and sent me photos of her children standing inside giant Christmas stockings.

Case Study #2: The I Love Almost Everything Jewish Mom She gets most of her Jewish culture from her mother who converted to Judaism in order to marry her father. She also celebrates nature, supports a belief in fairies, teaches her children about native American spirits and Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and has had African naming ceremonies for her children in lieu of traditional baptisms.

Case #3: The Athletic Activist She isn’t down with the whole Catholic thing. But she volunteers like a daemon at a community center. And I venture to say that there are only eight weeks (or less) of the year when she is not playing a sport with some of the coolest women out there. So she’s intensely part of a community. So maybe she’d be called SBNR. What’s that you say? You don’t know that acronym? I didn’t either until I read it in my book, but it stands for “Spiritual But Not Religious.” I’d venture to call her softball and football regimens religious. I’d also say that the way she has helped this community center with fervor points to a faith that is not anchored by ceremony, but in her very simple beginnings.

Case Study #4: The Holy Smokes I Never Knew Grace Like This Catholic She has been an incredible spiritual anchor through conversations and texts teaching me about discernment, grace and faith through recent periods of grief, fear and exaltation in my life. She has become obsessed with Pope Francis. She also sent me the book, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, by James Martin, SJ.

The Written and Spoken Word

I have been reading the Jesuit book, with audio downloads of Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map and incessantly reading young adult novels from the 39 Clues series to Chronicles of the Red King. So this morning, I decided, when I couldn’t sleep, that I needed to pull the Jesuit book. If you don’t know about Jesuits, they are the more liberal order within the Catholic Church who have a commitment not to advance to high political levels, but instead, to work for social justice and the poor. When I read the book this morning, low and behold, there’s a chapter on Desire. I couldn’t even finish it because I had to write to you right now.

I have to tell you something: Believe. 

Believe in something. In someone. In the Universe. In whatever you want. Just know that it doesn’t have to be one thing, one path. You may want to join a community.

I am only on page 63 of 414 pages of the Jesuit book, but there are two key takeaways I’m swimming with right now.

An Adult Exploration of Faith

An adult life requires an adult faith. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t consider yourself equipped to face life with a third grader’s understanding of math. Yet people often expect the religious instruction they had in grammar school to sustain them in the adult world.”

Lots of us had a childhood experience of God as follows: “Please God. Tell Santa to bring me the red bike.” Or, “Please God, don’t let my mom die of cancer.” God was seen as a problem solver. And when God fails to deliver the bike or save a life, do we give up? Take our marbles and go home? What if grace, faith, spirit, God—whatever you want to call it—was not there solely as an anchor in times of crisis or morality?

Faith as Desire

Desire is a key part of Ignatian spirituality because desire is a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And ultimately, our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for God.”

Case Study #5: Caregivers too Busy to Pick Passions I know several people in their 40s who say that they don’t have a passion outside of what they do for work or their families. They have been so lost in the busyness of life and commitments, that they say they don’t need their own passions or couldn’t find them if they tried. If this resonates with you, check out The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. If you want a community, worldwide book clubs are being launched on January 7. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will continue in waves, if that timing doesn’t work for you. This book and the optional audio components are not religious, but they do help you get to an ecstatic point of desire. I know to some, that may sound scary. Just imagine, though, that if you became clear on your desired feelings for your regular every day life, how much easier it would be to make decisions about family, work, relationships, money and faith.

So light your candles, your incense. Do your trance dance. Genuflect. Move that Elf on the Shelf. Lift your glass.

There is light in this world. And it resides in you.

Shine on, my love, shine on.

Desire at the Atlantic

Who is on your personal board of directors?


I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle, I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.

–Mother Teresa

Maaaaaan, I know some people who are getting it in the gut right now.  Loved ones in the hospital.  Physical pain. Grief.  What can you do when you are stuck in the muck of stuff you can’t control?  Three words:

Ask. For. Help.

I remember several years ago arriving at National Airport, at one of my lowest, most exhausted points, and just crying as I waited for my luggage. I was under so much stress at the time. A friend picked me up and handed me this little plaque with the Mother Teresa quote above.  Ever since then, it sits on my desk every single day.

No matter if you believe in a higher power or not, you need your people. You need your personal board of directors. This same friend that met me at the airport, periodically, calls me “Madam Chairman” and asks for advice or simply calls to share the fact that all is well. We also have that “bruja” magical connection where one of us is thinking of the other, and the other knows.

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Knowing what to do comes from knowing who you are.  Sometimes, we need our circles, our tribes, to reflect the best parts of ourselves, to hold up hope when we have none, and to carry concern over worry. The latter is a nuance I recently relished from the empress of inspiration, Danielle LaPorte.

Do you have people whom you can call to share “here’s what” and they do not need fifteen minutes of context because they know your life? 

Even if you don’t talk all of the time, there’s a heart connection.

My board has never met all together. I receive and give one-on-one consults and referrals.  We rarely have long conversations unless we have planned time together.  Many of them do not live where I live.

Somehow, we stay connected. Through phone, text, Skype, handwritten letter (try one quickly before they become obsolete) and when circumstance strike, they are live and in person, over coffee, tea, wine, water, tears or luggage.

Love your people. Find your people. Ask for help.


A day late and a father short


Eat bread and salt and speak the truth.

–Russian Proverb

I know so many folks who grew up without a dad. Passed away from cancer or went to the store and never came back. Some kids limit their contact by choice. So what’s left? In some cases, it’s a mother playing the heavy and the nurturer. And today, with all the hullaballo around Lean In, roles are altered, women are often the primary breadwinner, men are doing more domestic tasks.

So what if you grew up without a father, or he was so-so, or he was a bad dad? Now you might be a father, where do you learn how to be a dad? Books? TV? How about the careful art of human observation? I’ve watched dads through the years too.  Dan, who stood by his daughter through every life transition. With every relocation, he was there lifting boxes, driving the moving truck. And his ears were always open. Or Miguel, father of four, navigating his artistic dreams while always keeping the kids out front, their education, their manners, their intellect, their sense of community. The last time we talked in person, he told me that the youngest is the only one who will hold his hand. How he misses that closeness as his kids tween and teen. Finding new connections as sons and daughters get older can be confusing.

I watch and admire my husband as he pulls lessons from his experience. He quietly watches the uncles, fathers of friends and even co-workers throughout his life. I’ve observed the communications among his friends. It’s subtle, not the direct talk of women, but they find those moments to share what works and what’s hard. They also share the joy of seeing those beings, those parts of them, grow before their eyes.

To all those men who choose fatherhood, who choose to be a dad, I say thank you. Thank you for teaching and learning. We need you.


When I grow up, I want to be like M.


With my heroine, M. in South Dakota

I am fortunate to work with a lot of people who have put in a fair amount of time on this planet. They know way more than I do and they are willing to share their wisdom with me in words and actions.

M. (pictured above) is one of the reasons I want to go to work. We took this picture last night in South Dakota. M. is one of the most active, inspiring and smart volunteers I know. She’s a retired teacher. I have been working with her for over a decade. Here’s a just a glimpse (I’m sure there’s more) of what she does in a typical month:

  1. Plays saxophone in a band – I think two bands – one plays at inaugural and related fancy functions and the other plays at less intense functions.
  2. Organizes musicians to play weekly during a meal and bingo at the senior center.
  3. Volunteers weekly in a kindergarten classroom.
  4. Provides caregiving (with her husband) for two separate sets of family members each of whom live a ways away – she drives 3 ½ hours to get to one of the aging couples.
  5. Recruits volunteers and participates in a backpack-stuffing program for children who don’t have enough food on the weekends.
  6. Serves as a statewide leader in community service which means that she motivates volunteers around the state who give back to their communities. She also collects and tabulates the number of community service hours contributed by these inspiring folks.

She does all of this with a smile on her face. With a constant wonder at life and a sense of gratitude for all that she gets back from the smiles and hugs at the senior center, in the kindergarten classroom and beyond.

And I only learn about this work by asking her. It’s part of who she is and it is in her DNA. And for my part, I am helping her to meditate just ten minutes a day, to make sure that she recharges and gives something different back to herself.

M. is one of the reasons I go to work every day. We don’t talk a lot. It’s mostly by email. Yet knowing that she is literally changing the world for the better and that I have a chance to learn from her and perhaps give her something she could use out here in this gorgeous prairie…I say, thank you for this chance to show up. I say thank you for introducing me to this saxophone-playing, backpack-stuffing, lover of humanity. When I grow up, I want to be like M.

Do you have these role models in your life? They are everywhere. And you can be one too!

rebeccainspiresnow.com blog birthday gift-a-way!

It’s my 44th birthday and I’m celebrating by creating a personalized individually wrapped gift of inspiration and love! Follow my blog rebeccainspiresnow.com via email or your own blog and you’ll be entered to win! Contest ends April 26. Winner announced by April 30.  Refer friends and let me know via comment or at rebeccainspiresnow@gmail.com and you’ll get extra entries for every friend that follows. International readers do qualify for the contest–due to shipping and customs the physical weight of your gifts will be light and the intention will be equally bright! [Note: if you follow via email, please check your inbox to confirm that you are subscribed as a follower.]


A Girl Named Corn Syrup

Visit Sarah Selecky's site to sign up for daily prompts.

Visit Sarah Selecky’s site to sign up for daily prompts.

I just signed up at http://www.sarahselecky.com for daily writing prompts. Here is today’s prompt: On a train for two hours. Start with a bottle of corn syrup. Write by hand for 10 minutes.  If you are looking for a gentle push, check out Sarah’s site.

Here’s what I wrote this morning:

Karo. Kara looked at the bottle on the tray and thought “one letter and I’d be corn syrup.” The train rustled as it sped around the corner. She was on her way to her grandmother’s island in South Carolina. The funny thing was her grandmother did name her after corn syrup. When she filled out the birth certificate, her unsteady handwriting made the “o” look like an “a.”

It had been three years since she’d been back to Tola Island. The train would take her close to the ferry landing. She bet Mr. Fred would be waiting for her at her stop. He loved Kara’s grandmother and had been courting her for twenty-seven years since her grandfather died of complications from his diabetes. See, corn syrup, molasses, white sugar, brown sugar, they all had a special place in Grandmother’s kitchen. Kara grew up with red velvet pancakes for breakfast, cherry pie for lunch and brownie towers for dessert. For most kids, this would be a dream come true, but Kara longed for carrots, radishes, even pearl onions she used to pull from Mr. Fred’s garden.

Kara hadn’t visited since she left for Castleton College in Vermont. She loved the sunset leaves and the open sky that felt different from being surrounded by water. Her mother was supposed to have gone to Vermont for college but then she got pregnant the summer before her senior year in high school and died in childbirth.  That’s how Kara came to be raised on desserts and her grandmother’s wisdoms. “Don’t leave the sheets drying in the wind too long or you’ll have flying dreams and wake up tired.” “Before you eat breakfast, turn your chair clockwise three times so the spirits work in your favor ‘til sundown.”

Some of Grandmother’s wisdoms were so ingrained that Kara just gave up resisting. Her freshman year she used to discreetly turn her chair in the cafeteria at breakfast by hanging her jacket on the back of the chair and fooling with it. Finally she gave up. Her friends didn’t care about her habits since a lot of them were kids that had been treated for things like OCD. The train was nearing her stop. As she descended to the platform, there he was, his gray handlebar mustache perfectly trimmed, his thick full mane glowing in the afternoon sun.

“Kara, my belle from the North. I can see the evergreens in your eyes. Come here child and give me a hug.” Kara smiled at this gentle soul who loved her with his whole heart.

“Mr. Fred, you look just like the day you took me to the train.”

“Come now child, there’s some surprises for you in the car.”

When Kara leaned into the passenger window, she saw the most beautiful basket of vegetables all washed and waiting for her: snowpeas, carrots, pearl onions, tomatoes and red peppers. Kara smiled and lifted the basket onto her lap.  She couldn’t wait to bite into one of Mr. Fred’s pearl onions. They’d fortify her for the onslaught of desserts Grandmother Cully would have waiting. Mr. Fred even wove sprigs of fresh rosemary into the handle.  Kara pulled off several leaves and rubbed them between her fingers inhaling their oily perfume. She bit into an onion, imagining roasted red potatoes doused in olive oil.