The Slowdown–a parenting poem

To listen to this poem, click here.

Blowing whistles
and the wonderings of a mother

who hasn’t signed up for




art class

Spanish immersion

instead she shifts her son’s head

to drop in a remedy for swimmer’s ear

from swimming



Saturday marked by ten, twelve hours sleep

a body in repair

and the luscious knowledge of the intangible

it’s called Rest

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

“He can walk there on his own.”

“Everyone here does it.”

What choice does she have?

Sign on the dotted line

put a number on his back

swear fealty to the clock for fear of falling behind

Or what if stop-motion movies

puppets and pizza tag

riding bikes till twilight

made for enough of a childhood?

What if boredom became a challenge?

Live in the world

surf on worksheets

dig up Redstone

write the series about

Super Parnassus the Potato

and his Grape sidekick, The Greginator

this verse is homage to the slowdown

allowing for mothering and fathering

any which way

in the gray lies truth, freedom

and knowing the human who chose you


I love waking in the nether night

when woodsmoke is faint

and verse bubbles from left ear and right

elevations and giggles from childhood love wind swirls and curls around my head

tickling a smile

“Wake up! Wake up!”

the faeries whisper

there’s magic in the in-between

come see the stars before they sleep

they’re underneath the clouds

playing checkers with the waning moon

before she gives the night back to the sun

your best friend is nestled in your heart

mud pies with roley-poley messages

Charlie’s Angels and Happy Days

ask her what you’re going to color today

maybe there will be paint on your fingers

or flour under your nails

Sundays call for chocolate cake

macaroni and cheese

iced tea on the porch and jacks

let’s play jacks

–Rebecca Villarreal

Here’s an Opening for You…Straight from the Doughnut Phone

Cannelloni Thinking Cap

You’ve heard of the Batphone. But have you heard of the Doughnut phone? I just received three mission-specific steps to expanding your life. Are you up for it? Let’s go!

1. Let the light in. As a first step, try experiencing some kind of art. I wrote this poem for you. Have a listen and feel chosen. It’s called “Cannelloni Thinking Cap.”

2. Clear your space. It may be the space in your head, your heart or your junk drawer. You don’t have to do it all at once, but consider what your life would be like if you could find what you need when you needed it; if you could make clear decisions without second-guessing or over-analyzing; or if you could attract friendships and relationships which are truly fulfilling. KonMari Books I took a Clutter Buster Video Course with Kerri Richardson and it changed the way I looked at my piles and drawers. It has helped me let go of hundreds of books and bags of clothes–all the while knowing other people will enjoy them! I even threw away thirty years worth of journals and my high school yearbook. Now I have space to create what is most important to me. And I’m still clearing stuff!

Another resource is Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Here are a couple of articles about her approach from The New York Times and The Huffington Post. This one made me laugh out loud because Kondo is a bit quirky and I like her for it. The basic tenets of her approach involve pulling out everything in one category (like books or clothes) and dumping it all on the floor. Then you go piece by piece asking if each item brings you joy. Only keep items that bring joy. Books I Love Sounds simple, but as we know, there are emotions other than joy, like guilt, attached to things. Kerri Richardson’s course helps you uncover the “stuff” around those items, thoughts or feelings, so that you can decide what brings you joy. If you’re interested in her 6-week, Clutter Buster Video Course, it starts on April 27. She has an early bird registration offer which lasts until April 17. You may also want to visit her site:

3. Take action for 100 days. Check out #The100DayProject. It springs from a class at The Yale School of Art and encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. You can start it whenever you want. I started a few days ago. Lots of folks began on April 6. The site includes tips and ideas to get you going. You can tag your posts on Instagram or elsewhere with #The100DayProject and #100Daysof____ (your chosen action).

I’m documenting my participation on Instagram here. My chosen actions are #CreateClearMove. As I prepare to relocate and publish my novel The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón, a Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship, I’m using this project to help me stand firmly in my light. I’d like to spend the next 100 days creating art and clearing space for a new life. I also want to move my body every day and move my family to a beautiful new state! I’m inviting you to follow me on Instagram and to participate in your own 100 Days of…joy!

What can you do to create an opening in your life? Write a poem? Donate items from your closet? Dance in your living room for 100 days? Make someone’s heart sing with one free smile? Just imagine the possibilities and choose something. Choose YOU!

You’re Done


for EG

What you gonna do with that?
Magnets coming off
Drippin’ sugar from your cheeks
You can’t help but show your row of whites
every time you get a whiff
say you’re sick
in a twist
that’s love, baby
You’re done

I have been thinking a lot about romantic love lately. Remembering adolescent angst, excitement flip-over-backwards love. Answering my six-year-old’s question: “What’s a crush?” And thinking about my own marriage. My husband and I were both raised by single moms so when it comes to bumps in marital bliss, we look at each other and say, “We’re still learning.”

What if the same goes for romantic love? Are you in that kind of love now? Have you ever been in love? Were you heartbroken after? Or did it fade and now you’re bored? The poem above was inspired by my friend who fell in love and didn’t know it. She had gone on a few dates with this guy. She was complaining about her stomach hurting all the time. We were standing in line outside the White House:

Me: Girl, you’re in love.

Friend: No, I’m not.

Me: Yeah, you are. You’re done. That’s what it feels like.

Friend: Really?

Me: Yup.

They’ve been married for eleven years.

Love doesn’t always come in the form of a stomach ache. Sometimes you find it again with long-time partners. You can find it in their crooked teeth. In the way they make you laugh. In the way they fold your laundry. One thing I’m learning is that you can ask for that kind of love in your life whether you are with someone or not. It starts with your heart’s center. According to The Institute of Heart Math, your heart creates a magnetic field five thousand times greater than your brain.

For years I was a serial monogamist, in one long-term relationship after another. I even had a brief stint on Then I said, I’m done for a while. And I consciously chose not to date. It gave me a chance to just be. And what a marvelous time I had. I was so happy just taking a break. I didn’t think, “I’ll never meet someone if I don’t keep trying.” You know what happened when my heart center was generating that glow? I met a cute guy at a cafe’s art opening. He was shy and I had this kind of soul recognition and shameless attraction. I was talking to a group of people, all Mexican-American, and they were asking me about my background. I told them that I was Mexican, Polish, Irish and German. The cute guy said, “You came out good.” In that moment, I was another kind of done. I took a big fat risk with my heart and it worked out. Keep in mind, lots of risks were taken with that organ in the previous years. I was highly skilled at scooping that puppy off the pavement.

Sometimes during mundane moments of solitude on the bus, I think, “I love my life. I’m in love with my life. Someone is driving me around and I don’t have to pay attention.” This kind of happiness is cultivated consciously. Two great things happened yesterday. I read a beautiful story about a man eating his first meal alone after losing wife of 43 years. He watched a couple during dinner and was inspired to pay for their bill. Here’s a man who’s heart might be aching from grief, yet he’s morphed that into a pay-it-forward kind of love. Second, a friend and colleague sent me Pharrell Williams Happy video saying he thinks of me when he hears the song. I was so touched that I danced right there in my office. Watch it here and see your heart pulse with ten thousand magnets!

Whatever your circumstances right now, I hope that you’ll fall in love with your life. Even if it’s starting with a bus ride. You might get to know yourself better. You might get to know your partner better. Or the person next to you might give you a stomachache.

What’s on your list?

Life List

You can read some of the things on my son’s staycation list in the picture above. I really like the idea of adding play, pray and dream to my list. Plus who wouldn’t love credit for waking up? Think about it: you get credit for being alive.

I’ve been jamming with my to-do list since getting The Desire Map day planner (which by the way is now 50% off). It has the dates for the week on one side and on the other side here’s what I see:

Core Desired Feelings: this is where I write: “free, energetic, powerful and lotus love joy” to keep those feelings front and center in all that I do. Then I see:

  1. Livelihood & Lifestyle
  2. Body & Wellness
  3. Creativity & Learning
  4. Relationships & Society
  5. Essence & Spirituality

Positive Declarations

People to be of service to

Helpful people to connect with

So instead of over a decade of Franklin Covey planning where there are A, B and C priorities and work and personal lists, now there is flow. I know that every week, I’m adding something about my health with that “Body & Wellness” section—it may be a workout plan or a doctor’s appointment. For Livelihood & Lifestyle, I know that I need to take care of some paperwork for our property. Now I look at it differently. I’m still going to the Cook County’s Assessor’s office, but I’m centered on the fact that it’s for my livelihood, my family. It’s different for me visually and feels connected to something important to me, it’s not just another thing on the list of one million things that I have to do. My work and personal tasks fit comfortably together. I especially love the “People to be of service to” and “Helpful people to connect with” sections because it also puts a new lens on some of the tasks I need to do.

You don’t have to “know” your Core Desired Feelings or own The Desire Map to use the planner. I’m still learning about it and evolving my list as as I go along. As I’ve been listening to the audio of The Desire Map, one of the sections focused on what you crave. Dancing and singing keep coming up for me. And so, I’ve skipped yoga in the morning sometimes and just danced in my living room with headphones before my tribe wakes up. One morning it was Prince’s B-Sides (which I would not play for a six-year old), and for fifteen minutes I was a teenager again. You’ll laugh at the fact that I had to ice my knees afterwards, so maybe I have to work back up to my adolescent moves, but the point is, I tried and I was inspired. And as I write to you now, I’m feeling the beats of Mandalay. You might also be interested in this article about the 11 problems music can solve.

For one friend of mine, 2014 is her year of fun. She is scheduling lots of it. What about you? Have you been listening to tunes that lift you? Are you still dreaming? Are you intentionally declaring love to the people that matter while you are still awake?

Why not? It feels good.

#desiremap planner

Mama Chelo

Mama Chelo

relieved of bones, wiggly skin

it’s taut again



pinch her waist

she’s singing now

the world’s on fire

dancing Preciosa

cat-eye specs

arroz con “sauro-creen”

margaritas con sal

her plane dips and swallows

she’s got her choice

built chimneys

broke that pulsing red thump it

her record player

one thousand strings

canaries in hacienda white and blue

her third floor walk up


no mande here

just Tío Ramón spoiling her

Polito el toro like Spot

pollitos at the foot of her bed

til the dinner bell rang

those tears turned

upside down signs at her luncheonette

a milliner’s dream at Bonwit Teller

a life twisted by one man’s Soledad

new born teens and Guadalupe

pulled her into canción

canta, canta

no llores

each drop of you

swims in us

 Me and Chelo Communion

Unravel Her


That poem wants you to catch it by its tail

by the secret string

inside the honeysuckle

to find that succulent drop

you swear there are powers inside

’cause it’s real honey

skate away in your blue suede orange wheels

purple satin visor

born to roll

that yellow comb sticking out of your Sergios

if you can read this, you’re too close

people say your switchin’ but it’s just the way you walk

you’re always Kelly when Charlie calls

or Diana, daughter of Hippolyta

that girl knew so much

she comes back

when you stir your breath

eleven minutes on the kitchen timer

unravel her

before the sun

Mr. Fred and Miranda’s Meringue

ImageHow did Mr. Fred come to Tola Island? He was drawn there by the paintings of Jackson Blue. Miranda was the subject of one of those paintings. She was done up in her best silver sequined dress and standing behind the counter at Jed’s diner with all of those beautiful glass cake and pie covers that belonged to Jed’s mother. She has full lips, glossy and not done up. She was holding a just-dipped-in-meringue finger to her mouth. He was standing in Catanzaro’s grocery store where the news was showing on the TV behind the register about some gallery up north. They zeroed in on the painting of Miranda and called it “Miranda’s Meringue.” Mr. Fred was turning 33 years old that day. He was sent to pick up ricotta for his mom’s tradition of making cannoli on his birthday. Back then he was just Fred, staring at that sequined wonder all lit up by the glass, the pies and the wonder of that painter who got to look at that face, that finger covered in toasted air, those soft pillows she had for lips.

“Fred! Fred! That’s $1.35 for the ricotta.” He knew right then he had to meet Miranda of the meringue.


To learn more about this character and Miranda Cully, please visit:

This story is living and breathing. It all started with writing prompts from – I highly recommend signing up for them, just for fun. It only takes 10 minutes a day.

I just spent the morning doing the math of Mr. Fred’s age, when he fell in love with Miranda, what year characters were born and I actually wrote a poem to Mr. Fred. I’ve never written a poem for one of my characters before. This is how alive they are becoming for me.