A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

You know that frustrating feeling when you have a lot of stuff you need to do, but it’s not your favorite. (For me, that’s paperwork and admin stuff.)

You put it off until you just can’t anymore and it leaves you kind of discouraged and cranky.

I had a day like that last week.

And on top of all my least favorite work to do, I was absorbed by News Headlines and couldn’t seem to pull myself away. That didn’t help my mood. The more I read, the more discouraged I felt.

After a few hours, I knew I’d been at my desk too long to be productive. I decided to take a break and stepped outside into the afternoon heat.

It was a beautiful break from the noise and chatter.

I happened to record a few seconds of it.

It’s nothing much, just a quiet moment from a quiet summer afternoon in the neighborhood.

But, wow, did it make a difference.

I returned to my desk feeling re-set and renewed.

Time well-spent

Sometimes we let work, noise, and chatter put us in a negative mindset. We have trouble pulling ourselves away from it even for a few minutes.

But those few minutes can re-set your mind and body in a positive way.

That’s time well-spent.

Photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When leaving well enough alone is a good thing

It can be hard knowing when to leave well enough alone and even harder doing it.

It’s like having a tiny pimple on your nose, so small it’s almost unnoticeable. You ask people, “Do you see it?” and they have to squint and change angles until they see it. That’s how small it is.

But you know it’s there and it’s bugging the heck out of you that it’s there, so you start messing with it.

And it gets worse. Until the tiny blemish starts to ooze and it’s red and you ask your friend and she sees it right away without squinting.

The challenge

It can be challenging to know when to stop, and even more challenging to actually leave it alone.

“It’s all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.” ~ David Sanborn, musician

It’s true of music, but also of relationships, work, and life.

I wonder if Michelangelo struggled leaving his Statue of David alone or did he think, “It’s good, but I can make it better.”

When we’re determined to keep tweaking to make something that’s already pretty good even better, we run the risk of making it worse in a couple of ways.

First, we can have the whole thing collapse. Or, as in the case of the pimple, explode.

Second, we miss out on enjoying anything else because we’re obsessing about making this thing perfect.

Third, we can’t appreciate the amazingness and beauty of what we have when we’re focused on its flaws.

David Sanborn says, “knowing when to leave well enough alone” is a “lifelong quest.” I never thought about it that way, but I see what he means.

Especially if you have a tendency to fixate on things and get obsessed with an issue. It’s hard to let it go.

Getting away from it for a while can help. Get your mind off of it, look at something else, do something else. Go for a walk or run an errand. Start a new project.

The problem or flaw may not look as serious when you look at it again.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

The beauty of revising fiction and the power of words in real life

Writing fiction has its challenges, like typing words out of your head onto a blank screen and battling doubt every day, to name a few.

But there’s something great about fiction: the ability to revise.

Think of it. You’re writing out a scene and your characters get in an argument and one of them yells something rude, attacks a sensitive issue, and maybe slams a glass to the ground and leaves.  (As I’m writing this made-up scene, I’m imaging them in a bar for some reason.)

Awesome. The scene’s done.

“But wait,” I think to myself the next day when I re-read the scene. “What happens after that? That was a serious argument. They both said some pretty vicious things. I need them to be speaking to each other in the next scene. They won’t speak to each other for days after that argument. What if I tone it down a notch? Maybe she thinks about slamming a glass to the ground, but doesn’t do it.”

And I tweak it. Change a word here and there and, like magic, the feel of the scene changes.

Oh, the beauty of fiction.

Too bad real life’s not like that. Not at all.

Once you say something hurtful, do something hurtful, use poor judgement, etc. it’s done. You can’t change it. There’s no erasing a gesture or even a single word.

And the sting of your words and actions can stick around long after the argument or misunderstanding.

In fiction you hit the delete key and that’s all there is to it. That rude, stupid, angry scene never happened.

But real life is full of real interactions with people, real choices, real consequences.

There’s no revise, no do-over.

Whoever said, “Words can never hurt you,” was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Words are powerful because they express emotion. Add the element of tone and they become mega powerful because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

That puts a lot of responsibility on us to:

  • think before we speak
  • take a moment before reacting
  • remember there’s no revising the scene.

To quote an old James Taylor song, (which I’ve done before here): “Shower the people you love with love.”

And it’s hard, especially in the heat of the moment, but it’s a challenge we all face. No one’s perfect. We’re going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing once in a while.

Thank goodness for forgiveness.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Life, confusions, and clarity. It’s simple, but not easy.

You live out the confusions until they become clear. ~ Anaïs Nin

Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar role, like being a new mom or at a new job, and you realize you don’t know what you’re doing?

Like you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” at least once a day.

Or maybe you think/say the sister statement, “I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Okay, you’re confused. You’re unsure about what to do, but you still have to do it.

Confusion isn’t the end game

Doing something new is scary and can be confusing, but you live out the confusions until they become clear. You keep working, forge ahead, keep hanging on to the people you love, keep doing the work you love, and know in your heart that at the end of the day if you’ve done your best, if you’ve been kind and loving, and done your work with joy in your heart, it will all work out okay.

That’s what it’s about, I think.

The long haul

When my kids were young and especially through the teenage years, I was often confused. I would have moments where I felt like a horrible mom, wasn’t sure I was doing the right things for them, or had made mistakes and should have done more for them.

But life demands moving forward. Parenthood demands moving forward and doing your best even if it’s not clear what “the best” is.

It may make you want to throw your hands up and say, “I’m done!”, but don’t give up. Keep going. “Live out the confusions until they become clear.”

It’s okay to be in the learning stage

I’ve said to myself at least a hundred times in the past year of writing and publishing my first novel, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” And yet, I’m doing it.

If I wouldn’t have worked through the confusion and been okay with making mistakes, I wouldn’t have gotten very far.

I had to:

  • ask a lot of questions
  • learn all I could
  • make the best decision I could with what I knew at the time
  • overcome my fear of taking action
  • be okay with making mistakes
  • learn from my mistakes

It’s been a long and winding road, but I’ve learned so much and the whole process is becoming more clear to me now.

If you’re at a point of confusion and uncertainty, don’t despair. Keep moving forward. Learn all you can and strive for progress, not perfection.

Live and love the best you can and clarity will be your reward.

I believe that.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

What’s your definition of success?

Let’s say you’ve been working on a project. It’s been a long road, but you’ve kept your head down and kept gutting it out, moving forward. You’re primary goal is to make progress and you’re doing that, but…

Have you asked yourself this question: What does success look like?

What happens when the work is done? Maybe it’s a garden or a plan to be debt-free. How does that work into your plan for long-term success?

But wait…

I was talking to my son about the publication of my first novel on May 31. It’s a big win for me. I thought, “Yep. That’s success for me.” (See The finish line and other wondrous moments)

Then he asked, “What’s your goal? How many books do you want to sell?”

I was like a deer in headlights.

Hmm. I hadn’t actually thought about it.

Do X number of books sold equal success for me? I didn’t think so, but if that doesn’t what does?

It got me thinking: How do I measure success?

One story of success

You may have heard of Stephen King, author of horror/suspense books, many of which have been made into movies, like It and The Dark Tower. Well last week, he posted a short story on Instagram in advance of his new book, The Outsider. In 4 days he had 63,760 likes and 1,448 comments.

Whoa. I don’t know much about marketing and such, but I’d say he’s a successful guy and that was a successful post.

Even though I’m not a fan of his fiction, I love his book On Writing. It’s part memoir, part writing lesson and I recommend it even if you aren’t interested in writing.

A little bit of what he covers in the book: He’s

  • been writing since he was a kid
  • written and published dozens of books
  • been married since right out of college
  • a recovering alcoholic
  • was a high school English teacher when he sold his breakout novel, Carrie. He says of that time, “If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then.”

And here’s something else about Stephen King:

  • Legend has it that he writes every day. Still. Every day. His birthday. Christmas.
  • He’s a generous guy. The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation helps writers and various organizations in their home state of Maine.
  • You’d never know he’s wealthy by looking at him. He looks like a regular guy, doing appearances in a t-shirt and jeans.

So, sure, his is the far-out, wildest dreams kind of vision of success even he couldn’t have dreamed of.

It doesn’t happen for everyone.

A different story

When I was in Italy, my daughter and I took a trip to Nove, a town known for ceramics and home of the famous La Ceramica VBC.

I was looking for pottery, the hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind stuff. We wandered into a dusty, unpolished ceramics shop that looked promising. The owner’s name was Giovanni and he spoke English. He had the kind of pottery I was looking for.

It turns out Giovanni is an artist. His work is beautiful, but it was hard to tell because it was lost in a mix of other styles he said most people looked for.

Ceramic bowl. Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Unfortunately, health and money problems have made it difficult for him to stay in business. When I asked if he sold his work online, he waved off the idea and shook his head, like it was out of the question.

Giovanni’s work is extraordinary, but no one knows about it. He’s a gifted artist, but not a good businessman.

Ceramic bowl. Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

My takeaways from these contrasting stories of success:

Adapt, but don’t quit. Work through the rough periods.

Stephen King has had his struggles, including alcoholism and suffering life-threatening injuries when he was hit by a speeding van. He kept going.

Even if Giovanni closes his shop, I hope he figures out a way to keep going. There may be a better way.

Find your style, then focus on that.

Early on, Stephen King had to ignore people, including teachers, who told him he was wasting his talent writing his brand of horror/suspense.

Giovanni had what I was looking for and I thought the other more commercial stuff distracted from his amazing work.

Be authentic.

It’s exhausting trying to fit some one else’s mold of who you are and what you should be doing. No, there’s only one Stephen King and I’m not him. And there’s only one me and he’s not me, and there’s only one you and we’re not…. You get the idea.

But the question remains: How do you define success?

You may have heard the phrase: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

As you can see from these contrasting stories of success, it’s not that simple.

We each have to decide for ourselves and it’s an important question, even though there’s no easy answer.

What’s my definition of success?

  • Keep writing and publishing.
  • Find my audience.
  • Be authentic and honest.
  • Keep things in perspective. My work is important, but it’s meant to support life, not the other way around. (Insight by Stephen King)

The finish line and other wondrous moments

Well, of course my big news this week is that my book is published. Actually published.

Yes, self-published, or as I’ve learned is a more accurate term — Independently Published. (In case you missed it, you can go to my book page here.)

At my desk holding my preview print copy of “A Song for Jessica”

I noted last week that, in my mind, until I get to the finish line (published work) I haven’t really done anything. (Click here to read about celebrating milestone accomplishments.)

Well, I made it to the finish line.

And it hit me, almost knocked me over in fact and actually did bring me to tears, as I was updating my book’s webpage with a link to Kobo and I clicked the “Preview now” button.

I was able to read the first chapter of my book, this story I’ve worked on and fussed over for the past 18-months was there. That made it real like never before.

Something happened

There was something very surreal in that moment.

It was the realization that my work is out there, that it’s not just for me anymore.

And then I clicked the “Preview” and my book loaded. There it was. My character, my novel (the story I wrote!).

It was one of those surreal moments of accomplishment, relief, euphoria, and absolute satisfaction, one of those moments you almost can’t describe.

It’s like seeing your child for the first time. One second he’s in your womb, the next moment he’s in your arms. There’s no way to adequately explain the power of the moment. But I think you know what I mean. 

This whole thing is like having a child in another way too. It’s like being a mother who adores her child and wants everyone to notice how great he is. Some people may think he’s amazing, but some people may think he’s nothing special.

She’s got to be okay with that.

For me, as much as I’d love for everyone to love my book, some may, some may not.

I never really believed I’d be okay with that, but somehow I do now.

Maybe it’s because I did what I said I wanted to do. I reached my goal. I’ve written and published a novel. Will it get good reviews?  How many will I sell? Who’ll play the lead role in the movie? : )

But for now…

For the moment, this wondrous moment, none of that matters.

It’s like finishing a marathon with a very slow time. It doesn’t matter. I crossed the finish line.

Time to celebrate? Definitely.

Do you know what I’m talking about? If you’d like to share a wondrous moment I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Click here to read a short synopsis of A Song for Jessica. Available for pre-order now!

Why it’s important to celebrate milestone accomplishments

Why it’s important to celebrate milestone accomplishments

Over lunch the other day, my husband asked, as he often does, about where I am in the process of publishing my book.

I’d been learning about book cover design, format specifications, pricing, distribution, and much more about self-publishing. There was so much to learn.

The process had been tedious and overwhelming at times. I joked, “And I thought writing a book would be the hard part.”

He said, “That was hard. It was a huge accomplishment.”

I gave him a look that must have said, “Yeah, but….”

Meaning, yeah, but I’m still not done. Until I get it out into the world, it’s still a work in progress and I haven’t really done anything.

He says he can’t read my mind, but I think he did because then he said, “You’ve come a long way. What are you doing to celebrate your accomplishments?”

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com


His question caught me off-guard. When I finished my first draft March 2017, we celebrated with a special dinner and he bought me a congratulations plant, but that was over a year ago.

Now I’m nearly ready to publish and get it out into the world. I’m almost to the finish line. And in my mind, until it’s published I haven’t really accomplished anything.

“I haven’t done anything,” I said.

He disagreed. “You’ve done a lot to get you to this point. It’s important to celebrate your accomplishments.”

My husband manages projects for a living and he’s very good at it. He explained that one of the ways to continue positive momentum in a project, especially a long, tedious, labor-intensive one, is to celebrate the milestones along the way.

It’s a way to reflect on what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Of course, he has a point.

There’s so much to learn and so much to do. It can be overwhelming at times.

I can see how even a small celebration before pushing forward to the next step can help refresh the spirit. If nothing else, it helps to recognize the incremental growth and progress toward the end goal.

And big projects (training for a long run, losing X amount of weight, starting a business, finishing school, and the like) don’t happen all at once. They’re done incrementally, little by little.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. Tanzanian Proverb

We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, Valentines Day and Star Wars Day. Why not make a point of celebrating our personal growth and accomplishments?

Makes sense to me.

I believe it’s important to trust the process.

So, I resolve to make celebrating accomplishments an important part of my process.

Thanks to my husband for the lesson and, as always, recognizing and supporting me and my accomplishments even when I don’t.

Related posts:

Dream of the finish and then get started

Strive for progress not perfection

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

How a simple expression of love turned a bad day around

Everyone has a bad day sometimes. Not the worst kind where something major happens that turns your life upside down.

I’m talking about the regular kind of bad day where nothing seems to go right and people aren’t nice and stuff seems kind of pointless. That kind.

I had a day like that last week.

Maybe I was due for a bad day. I’d just had an amazing vacation in Italy and was feeling energized, ready to buckle down and get stuff done. The sun was shining and all was right with the world.

I scheduled a long overdue pedicure appointment for later that afternoon and got to work.

But my upbeat mood and momentum slowed almost as soon as I started working in the not-so-user-friendly Photoshop application. I’ll spare you the details except to say it’s like losing your car keys when you’re running late for work and you can picture them in your hand. Frustrating.

What I thought would take just a few minutes was taking more than an hour. I felt my jaw clench and the muscles in my neck ball up, but I couldn’t pull myself away.

Then I remembered my pedicure appointment. Perfect. I could get away from the computer, take my mind off Photoshop, and relax in the massage chair.

Or not

The owner/nail tech was on the phone when I walked in and she stayed on the phone instead of speaking to me. Instead, she directed me with gestures like pointing to the nail polish rack to pick out a color and patting the chair where I was to sit.

But worse than that was when she finally got off the phone and proceeded to complain about people who don’t get regular pedicures and then expect miracles on their feet, blah, blah, blah.

I knew I was overdue for a pedicure. Then I realized she was complaining about me to me! I should have been mad, but I just felt bad in a couple of different ways.

I didn’t say another word, just sat there in pathetic silence.

Later I thought I should have stopped her, gotten up, and left because that was uncalled for. But I didn’t. I let her do her job which she did well, except for disregarding courtesy.

Is it me?

After that, I stopped to pick up a pair of pants that hadn’t come in in time for me to take on my trip.

It seems petty to detail the sales clerk’s rudeness, so I’ll just say there was so little communication, verbal and nonverbal, between us that I didn’t know when she was done with me and expected me to leave. Never said thank you, didn’t smile.

I walked out without saying a word, but thinking, “Is it me? Am I invisible?”

Even though these were stupid encounters with people I didn’t even know, I felt a little beat up.

Maybe it was just the process of getting back to reality, but why do people have to be so rude? As much as I tried to shake off that crappy feeling, I had let them get to me.

I felt invisible and like a major loser — an unproductive, invisible loser.

Then something amazing happened.

When I got home and walked in the door, my dog ran to greet me like she always does, with her tail wagging and a smile on her face.

I had to smile back. She delivered exactly what I needed at that moment — a reminder that I was loved.

And not just by her.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
That face.

At that moment I thought about the people in my life who love me and who I love and about how blessed and lucky I am and it doesn’t matter that I couldn’t figure out Photoshop or that the nail tech was a meany or that a store clerk was rude.

Those are small things.

Having people in my life who love me and care whether I’m there or not…those are big things. Way bigger than the petty stuff I was letting get me down, even though it’s tempting to get tangled up in the petty crap.

It’s still a choice.

They say it takes ten positive statements to cancel out one negative statement.

But it can be hard to blow off negativity and pettiness and even a hundred positive statements won’t be enough to shake off a rude comment.

There was a time when I would have hung on to the negative vibes instead of choosing to focus on the positive and embrace the love that surrounds me.

It’s a life lesson I know, but sometimes still need to be reminded: Life’s too short to get bogged down by pettiness. Better to count your blessings, know you’re loved, and move on.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published rubymontalvo.com

Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach

I had wanted to visit Italy for a long time, to marvel at The Coliseum and The Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Statue of David and Il Duomo in Florence.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
The Colosseum in Rome

I say I wanted to go, but I never did anything to get me there, never even researched the cost of airfare. Visiting Italy was one of those things I put off for “someday”.

Then something unexpected happened.

My daughter married into the military and guess where she’d be living for the next few years…

You got it. Italy!

Suddenly a trip to Italy became more about seeing my daughter than seeing the ruins of Rome or any of Italy’s amazing artifacts. Way more important than any of those things, I missed my daughter and she was there.

Having her there was a game-changer for me.

After all those years of wanting to go, that’s what finally got me there.

Of course, while I was there I’d visit some of those amazing places I’d always dreamed of visiting, but that was just a bonus.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
My daughter and grand dog

The highlight of the trip was visiting with my daughter and son-in-law and my grand dog, but the tourist part was pretty awesome too.

What took me so long to do it?

After a day in Rome, I wondered why I hadn’t come sooner. Going to Italy is something I’d wanted to do ever since I can remember. Of all the countries I’d ever wanted to visit, Italy was at the top of the list.

I’ve been fascinated with Italy since I was in high school when I first read Shakespeare’s plays, many of which were set in Italy, like Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and when I learned about The Italian Renaissance.

I took History of Western Civilization my first year of college and listened in awe as my professor described the cathedrals and great works of art of The Italian Renaissance.

I even took a semester of Italian and an Italian Civilization class when I was probably 20.

And now I’m a few months away from celebrating my 56th birthday. I figure I’ve had more than 30 years to make my “someday” happen. Sure, it’s not cheap, but even saving $20 a month toward a trip to Italy would have gotten me there by my 40th birthday.

It wasn’t so difficult to do. What took me so long to get to there?

I realized that I’d made Italy a “someday” wish instead of taking the steps to make it a reality. All these years I’d settled on experiencing Italy through textbooks, literature, and other people’s experiences.

When I thought of it as something I’d like to do “someday”, I put it way in the back of my mind out of reach.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
The Vatican

Excuses, obstacles, and other reasons.

This experience has me wondering what else I’ve put off for “someday”. Now I know there’s no good reason to wait.

Waiting for someday takes time for granted. I want to stop doing that.

Do you have something you’re putting off for “someday”?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay published on rubymontalvo.com

Have a vision of what you want even if it doesn’t seem possible

Vision: An imagined idea or a goal to which one aspires.

You may have heard the news a few weeks ago about Mike Hughes, the man who designed and built a rocket, even though he’s not an engineer, and launched himself in it. You can read the story here if you missed it.

Amazingly, he survived a hard landing in the Mojave Desert. Even though it doesn’t really have anything to do with the story, it’s interesting to note that he also thinks the earth is shaped like a frisbee, as in not round.

Sound crazy? You might think so. Lots of people do.

Say what you will, but the man has vision. And commitment to it.

Photo courtesy of PxHere published on rubymontalvo.com
Photo courtesy of PxHere

Do you have vision?

When we say of a person: “She has vision,” it sounds big. Big idea, big goals, global.

Tesla’s vision is space travel for the common man. Big. Huge. Interstellar huge.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel published on rubymontalvo.com
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

It doesn’t have to be. Yours could be something as simple as being debt free, running a marathon, or getting off medication, to name a few.

But, you could want to launch yourself on a rocket you made in your garage. Either way.

If you have a goal or imagine doing something you only see yourself doing in your wildest dreams, then you have vision.

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~ Jonathan Swift
No one else has to see it. As long as you see it, it’s possible.

So how’s your vision? What do you want to do or create? It starts with a vision and then you have to get to work.

Almost certainly, there’ll be people who don’t see it, who say it’ll never happen and believe you’ll never do it. There’ll be people who celebrate your failures. You can be sure of that.

But there will also be people who cheer you on and believe in your vision even though they can’t see it. They’ll have faith in you and trust that you see it and trust that you’ll make it a reality.

You can create a Dream Board to help clarify your vision. (Read My dreamboard and the law of attraction) You have to have a goal if you’re ever going to reach it.

What is your goal? Your imagined idea?

Dare to dream. Have a vision. Why not make it big?