We had the good fortune of connecting with Gracie Villarreal, M.Ed. and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Gracie, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
On top of my list is honesty – I have always believed that honesty makes up the core foundation of any relationship. Without it, you can eventually expect your foundation to collapse. Anybody that knows me, knows that I cannot stand when someone lies to me. This applies to all areas of my life. Honesty is tied to one’s integrity & if you want me to believe & trust you (on any matter), you have to be honest. One of the reasons I have such a strong stance about honesty is because the other values & principles that are important to me are strongly intertwined with honesty. When honesty is taken out of the equation, there’s a domino effect that hits all of the other values & principles causing an irreparable collapse to a relationship’s foundation & in most cases, leaving one party in a devastating mess.

So what are those other values & principles that are important to me? Being loyal, faithful, committed, dedicated & supportive. I firmly believe you can’t have one of these values & principles without the others. I also believe that these values & principles tied with honesty & trust are anchors for holding down a solid relationship. You can’t selectively choose one of these values & principles & apply them to your relationship whenever it’s convenient for you…it doesn’t work that way. I’m very aware that there is no perfect relationship but the values & principles I’ve mentioned share a common ground that contribute to what does or what should make a relationship strong & allowing it to flourish on to its next phase.

The one other important value & principle depending on the type of relationship is of course, love. And that, is a whole other discussion in itself for another time. And so, to be continued…

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Change & transition are the overlapping themes that are clearly making up this year for me. For example, the workout studio I was a member of permanently closed its doors last year & so, I had to adapt to not being a member of a gym & transition to a different physical fitness environment. After its closure & due to personal circumstances, I had absolutely no desire to do any kind of physical activity but with some time, I got up & adapted to going back to where I started with my health journey…walking. The biggest change to my walks is that now I have been trying to visit parks, beaches & trails I hardly visited or have never been to before. The change in scenery has been very therapeutic for me & I have learned & gained a new appreciation for nature.

What I want the world to know about me & my story is that…well, it’s very much evolving. In life, my life, there will always be some kind of change. Sometimes those changes are so minor that we don’t even feel or recognize them while other times those changes will come at you when you least expect them, caused by those you least expect them from & they will be life changing. What~do~you~do? No matter how those changes make you feel & the impact they will have in your life, “you have to go through them.” Learn from those changes, try to embrace them through “the good, the bad & the ugly” & patiently, with God’s help, allow them to transform you into who you are meant to be.

I have been very fortunate to work in academia for over 20 years & my hope & goal is to work with my colleagues, researchers & scholars to incorporate my life experiences with the study of abrupt changes that affect spiritual, mental, emotional & physical health. As with any credible & published study, there will be some challenges along the way but I look forward to the day that my story is heard to help others who experience unexpected, profound changes in their lives.

And that, is where my story is at.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
If you were to have asked me this question a year ago, I would have definitely given you an itinerary composed of all kinds of interesting places & things to check out in Houston & the surrounding areas but currently I’m going through a major transition in my life that I, myself, am rediscovering not only my hometown but the surrounding areas that I thought I knew so well. Adding to this, COVID-19! Due to all the changes & closures because of COVID-19, working remotely & my personal circumstances, I’ve had to adjust into a different but new way of life for me.

So what’s my (new) suggested itinerary?

  • One of my favorite coffee places is Sycamore Grounds Coffee House. It’s small, cozy & provides the space I like to read, research, or write. The staff is always so nice & their Red-Eye coffee will get you going for reading & typing away! Location: Pasadena
  • I love taco trucks & recently a friend of mine treated me to some really good tacos from Taqueria La Morenita. It was nice to catch up with her while having our tacos. Location: Pasadena
  • Another new eating place for me is JINYA Ramen Bar. My daughter & niece treated me to this restaurant & it was so good! I loved their edamame, the spicy chicken ramen, of course, the company. Location: Houston
  • I have always loved taking a walk & watching the sunrise at the beach. Recently I did both at El Jardin Beach. If you go early in the morning, you practically have the whole beach to yourself. I forgot how much I missed visiting the beach & hearing the water. Location: Seabrook
  • In the past, I would on occasion visit what my daughter & I call “the trails” but the park’s real name is Holly Bay Trail Spur & Park that connects to the Armand Bayou Hike & Bike Trail. Lately we’ve been walking & running these trails often & if you go early in the morning you’ll catch a beautiful view of all the cardinals flying around the trails. Location: Pasadena
  • Another place I have always wanted to visit is the Pasadena Little Theater. A friend of mine recently invited me to join her for a comedy called, Our Lady of the Tortilla. The cast was really good & the show was funny! Any seat at this theater is a good seat. Location: Pasadena
  • I recently discovered the Secret Garden Coffee & Cocktails & it looks like it will quickly become one of my new favorite places. The drinks are prepared like little flower art pieces when served. Location: Houston
  • Lastly, Bayou Bend Gardens. The garden trail is so pretty. I definitely recommend to visit especially during cooler weather. Location: Houston

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First & foremost, I like to thank God for always guiding & protecting me. Through all my successes & failures, joys & pains, I believe, he is with me every step of the way. “He knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me & not harm me, plans to give me hope & a future.”

Secondly, my daughter, Cecilia Villarreal. She’s my heart, strength & determination to keep fighting & pushing on in this crazy & wild ride we call life. Every day when I wake up, I pass by her bedroom & on most early mornings while she’s still asleep, I get a glimpse of her & I am reminded that although she has her own life to live, she will always be part of my life’s purpose. She also reminds me that, regardless of age, our children observe, learn & take in a lot more from their parents’ life decisions & experiences which in turn, greatly influences the lives that they are building for their own. To my Cecilia, always put God first & trust him in all you do, be honest, observe & learn from my actions, be brave & challenge those who challenge your values & principles & always listen to your heart in making your life’s decisions ~ I love you.

A very special group composed of family, friends, co-workers & professionals has emerged this past year for me. Each has supported, mentored & encouraged me through one of the most difficult times of my life. It is so true that when an unexpected & drastic change happens in your life, people who you thought were important to you painfully & abruptly step out of your life, while those meant to be in your life, step in. To each of those individuals who have stepped in this past year, to say thank you is simply an understatement & I will forever be grateful for your genuine support, encouragement & prayers.

Image Credits
Cecilia Villarreal