The World’s Embrace – A Poem + I Won a LIT PRIZE! + Goodies for Your Heart

The World’s Embrace

You can listen to this poem here and download it for on-the-go listening here.

by Rebecca Villarreal

All I want to do is stick my face in a blueberry

or a toothpick with a sail

and shrink to meet the fae 

as they navigate the frothy waters

or perhaps I’ll slice a garden tomato

marking the circumference

like a kitchen timer

pomodoro raft

reclining and licking

the Maldon salt

in all its pyramid popping

defying the laws of the courts of saline

perhaps I’ll drift onto land

bouyed by sourdough

lightly toasted

and begging for Irish butter

for now, I send you a poem of produce and dough

to save you from despair

you see just when the world seems masked by indifference

or perhaps so much difference

you’ll ask for a poem when

you didn’t know your heart yearned for one


The clay of our ancestors knows

your feet once had roots

your navel was the hollow of a tree

where wrens nested

and eggs hatched




for the cosmic mother

ancient and complete

to send you a blueberry sailboat

a tomato raft

and an island of sourdough

to assure you that you are loved

the soil is your succor

the earthworms your symphony

and the ink of my pen

a love letter to remind you 

that your heart is full

your soul is waiting

and you deserve 

the world’s embrace

I hope you felt lifted by the poem and took the time to listen to the audio version so that you could feel the world’s embrace.


I’ve posted links to 88 Cups of Tea, founded by Yin Chang before. Yin has built the most amazing, supportive, loving, boundaried and NON-COMPETITIVE writing community I have ever witnessed. Consider supporting her Patreon account.

You can hear my name announced at the 1:08 mark in this podcast. I am so honored to be one of three people out of 151 submissions selected for our community’s 5-Year Anniversary Celebration. I had to fill out an application including the first pages of my first chapter of the sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship as well as a synopsis and the goals of the book among other questions. I won a conversation with Holly Root, of Root Literary Agency. You want to see tears of joy on that one? I came running over to my husband and he was all, “What happened?” And I kept saying, “I won! I won! I won!” and then I played him that moment when my name was announced.

Being a part of the 88 Cups of Tea community has been transformative for my writing. We gather several times a month and write together. And one of my fellow writers told me about Heather Demetrios’ Flow Lab. After completing it, I now write an average of one hour a day, 5 days per week! I just printed my manuscript yesterday and I have forty chapters either started, midway or completed! And the podcasts and articles are like having an M.F.A. for free!

I am sending a HUGE thank you to everyone who has read my first novel, and reviewed it, purchased it and requested it at your local book store or library. I was thrilled to learn that Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon had 20 copies in stock! Recently, I received the most beautiful request from a family based on Oregon. They donated their copy to the fire relief fund in their community, and asked for the best place to purchase a copy so that I would get most of the profit because they needed to have one handy for rainy days! These kinds of stories really keep me going. I can’t wait for you all to read book 2! Hurley has a much larger role and the magic is amazing! And of course we get to travel to Italy and Morocco among other adventures in Chicago.

Goodies for Your Heart

And in other news, this morning I passed the time celebrating life, drinking mint and yarrow tea from my garden, and thinking of Mama Chelo, my grandmother who passed away several years ago at age 105. If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember this poem I wrote after her passing, her 5 Life Lessons post and her Guacamole recipe. This past week I did a cooking demo of that recipe here. A downloadable PDF of the recipe is here.

As I was pouring the tea in the glasses below, I remembered when Mama Chelo was visiting me in Washington, D.C. and we went to Dean and Deluca. She bought me a small basket and two glass tea cups. The cups have been broken for years now. When I got the glasses in the photo below as a free gift for purchasing tea, I jumped at the chance to recreate that special experience with my grandmother again. This morning, I kept pouring the tea as I thought of her. I spilled it all over the table and didn’t care as it was all part of visiting with her in my heart and mind.

The vision I had as I began cleaning up the tea was “The Affliction of Joy.” It’s this feeling that there is so much delight inside of me and it is inextricably tied to the fact that I’ve also experienced great sorrow. It’s almost as if my appreciation for joy, ecstasy and little moments of happiness has been enhanced by the dark times in my life.

As I’ve navigated the drowning grief from the loss of my brother in August and prior to that, my uncle and Godfather in May, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, not only in resilience, but in navigating joy and sorrow and embracing impermanence.

First, take good care of your adrenals, folks. I’m including a photo of some adrenal support snacks from my doctor. (Yes, it’s been on my fridge for months so it’s worn!) What that means for me is concentrating on good sleep and enjoying my caffeine in the morning. What happens if I overdo the afternoon caffeine is that I experience an enormous high that inevitably attracts a big low or dramatic drop in energy. That crash becomes fertile ground for a STUG. What’s a STUG? It’s a Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief. You can read about it here. And frankly, it sucks. I had four days of STUGs in September and I literally felt like I was drowning in tears. I called a helpline and spoke to a counselor and, as per my usual, listed the twelve thousands things I do for self-care and my experience navigating trauma and resilience. And though she didn’t tell me anything new, it was helpful to speak to a compassionate professional and focus on myself–not empathy for another person’s experience.

All this is to say that I have also been focusing on the idea of impermanence. My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh has helped me to understand the idea of no being. In his book, No Death, No Fear, he focuses on the ideal conditions for something or someone to manifest. When I think about the people I’ve lost, whether my grandmother at 105 years old or my brother at 39 years old, I’m getting to a point where I understand that the conditions of their lives existed to support them in their human form for their lifespans on earth. I believe and feel them inside of me now. And I feel them everywhere. In the mint tea I spilled on the table, and in the good fortune I had to win a literary prize. Thich Nhat Hanh compares this to a cloud, which can manifest as rain or as snow. When the rain comes, if you’re looking for the cloud and mourning its passing, you miss the beauty of the rain and the nourishment of the plants and food all around you. Speaking of food, I have learned so much from gardening these last years (Gardener was my word of the year in 2019) and the Cherokee Purple tomato and Jacob’s Cattle Beans in the photos above are grown from the seeds I purchased from Slow Food.

Another very valuable coping strategy from Thich Nhat Hanh can be found on page 101 of his book No Mud, No Lotus. I am including a photo of it below. Of course, I love the very clear connection to trees!

Finally, I recorded the video below for you because I decided that I was going to launch my personal #4monthsoffun where I focused on the inner and outer health of my body (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), my book and my money! I recorded it on September 8, and you can join at any time and make it your own. I linked it to my Mystic Athlete approach. October 8 would make it three months of fun for you, so we can celebrate together on January 8, 2021–that’s the day I officially return to social media.

Continue reading

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.**

“Olé!” Preparing Your Heart for Thanksgiving

Loves, this is not another gratitude post. This is a how to live in the now and not let thoughts, feelings and relatives (alive or dead) drive you insane post. 

The video above is proof of bloodlines. My son is not just another kid dancing flamenco on bubble wrap. This is the spirit of my grandmother, Mama Chelo, who passed away last year just shy of her 106th birthday. She and I used to dance flamenco together in her living room.

In the U.S. lots of families and friends are gathering tomorrow to inhale large amounts of food, hold hands and express gratitude. There may also be some grief for the empty seats around the table.

Their Spirits Run Through You

One of my greatest teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, has taught me so much about love, grief, anger and staying present. When it comes to grief, he reminds us that the blood of our ancestors runs through us. I think my son’s dancing is empirical evidence of that fact given that he only met Mama Chelo once. (See the photo below.) I’d take that theory even further and assert that amazing people who have influenced our lives, and may not be blood relatives, also run through us. Sit in the knowledge that some part of the way we interact with the world is credited to the people who came before us.

#grandparents #grief #thanksgiving

Take the Car Keys from the Crazy-Makers

I imagine several of you may also be rehearsing conversations in your heads with certain family members. You may be anticipating conflict or a nice serving of guilt ladled out with the gravy. Or maybe you’re spending it alone and mourning disappointments for a lost childhood.

If you’ve ever thought, “He drives me crazy,” here’s a suggestion: don’t hand him (or her) the car keys. And that goes for your thoughts and feelings too. You are the only licensed driver of your heart and head. Why hand the keys over to someone who’s had too much chardonnay?

Here’s one solution for you. It’s a short RAIN meditation recently gifted to me:

R-recognize (just notice what’s in your mind)

A-awareness (be aware of any feeling associated with what’s in your mind at the time of meditation)

I-investigate (investigate in your body from the neck down where you feel it)

N-natural observation (do you have evidence in your natural surroundings to support or refute your feelings or thoughts)

Keep in mind RAIN is just observing and feeling–nothing more. No analyzing or judging. It doesn’t even need to make sense. To learn more about this meditation, click here.

Finally, if you need extra help, check out this article “Let it Go” from Psychology today, which details steps to help you do just that.

And if all else fails: find some bubble wrap, start dancing and shout, “Olé!”