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After a break – Getting back to work

It seems like I’ve been away from work for a while, like between the week of Thanksgiving 2018 and the first week of January 2019 work came to a stand-still.

I used my office to store packing materials, stash Christmas presents, and house living room knick-knacks displaced by season decorations.

Hmm. Something’s not right.

It was a nice break, but the time off didn’t mean I sat around the house binge-watching The Hallmark Channel and eating fruitcake, not at all.

Life gets busy

My husband and I took a last-minute weekend trip to Philadelphia, PA, prepped for Christmas, and were thrilled when a bonus Christmas gift arrived — our daughter and son-in-law made a surprise visit home from overseas. All this was after two family weddings, an out of town book signing, and an unexpected death in the family.

I didn’t blog, write, or edit during my break. It felt good to step away from my Works In Progress, “A Song for Jessica” (ASFJ) Audiobook, edits of sequel to ASFJ, and revisions on an urban fantasy YA novel I’m working on.

Pushing hard and getting nowhere

To be honest, for a few weeks leading up to the holidays I felt myself putting in hours at the keyboard but producing very little. Then I had a few setbacks (see What I’m working on now). I knew I was approaching the point of diminishing returns, like getting your car stuck in the mud and the more you press on the gas the deeper you sink.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away for a bit and think about something else. The break can help ease frustration, give a new perspective, allow you to catch your breath, and devise a plan.

While out of the office, I

  • Wrote out 2018 accomplishments Writing them down keeps it for the record because in a few years you may remember the biggies, but you may not remember the small victories and those are important, too.
  • Made a list of personal and professional goals for 2019 This is a flexible document : )
  • Started planning action necessary to execute 2019 goals.
  • Began cleaning and organizing my office. (It’s a WIP)
My office needs attention.

When it was time to get back to work, I was refreshed and ready rather than feeling overwhelmed and directionless, like I had at the end of the year.

Taking a break from your work can boost your focus and productivity. Even if you love what you do, rest can be the best thing you do for yourself and for your work.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When the level of gratitude is over the top


There’s an old movie starring Joanne Woodward called “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel.

I watched the movie a long time ago, and don’t remember a lot about the plot, but one scene has always stood out in my memory.

It’s the scene where the mom, Joanne Woodward’s character, walks down the aisle of a near empty auditorium where her daughter’s just won the school science fair. (The daughter’s science project is where the name of the play comes from.)

And the mom calls out to her daughter, “My heart is full.” Her voice echoes and she repeats a couple of times, “My heart is full.” Then she turns and leaves.

Moments that stick

I might have been 10 years old when I saw that movie, but that scene has always stayed with me. In my mind it perfectly exemplifies that feeling of being overwhelmed with gratitude and love and absolute joy, when there are so many emotions all mixed up at once.

That’s how I felt last week at my Book Launch party for “A Song for Jessica”. My heart was full.

The party was a celebration of the official publication of my first novel and to have worked on it for more than a year and told people “I’m writing a book,” and then little by little to have it formed into something real and tangible that I can share.

And then for people to be interested in it and to have it all come together and my family and friends show up on a steamy, Thursday night to help me celebrate the actual publication of a book I wrote and published.

It was just a very humbling experience and to say I’m grateful doesn’t quite get it. Yes, I feel incredibly grateful, but it’s like uber-gratitude, which doesn’t even sound right.

No. My heart is full. 

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Gratitude’s a game-changer

I believe daily gratitude can change your life, but this mixture of love, gratitude, hope, and joy doesn’t feel like an everyday thing. It’s one of those moments I’ll always hold in my heart as an extraordinary gift.

Thanks to everyone who came and special shout out to my team ; ) — my husband, Mark, who’s always right there beside me, my sister, Lynda, who always comes through for me, and for my niece, Juliana, who was a popcorn-popping trooper. And to my friend, Gigi, owner of WT Cafe who provided cookies and muffins. It was a warm evening and we were very fortunate to have a nice evening breeze and smooth sounds by Frank, Kelso, and Kelly Ann Morales. Thanks ya’ll!

Thanks also to Marisol at The Koffee Kup Co. for offering to host and stay open late. You rock!

To all my family and friends who couldn’t be there in person but were there in spirit, thank you for sending love and good thoughts. I felt those, too.

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Going to the Movies


I used to spend a lot of time at the movies.

My 1st real job, besides the one I got fired from when I was 15, was at a 6 screen movie theatre. That was lots of screens back then.

Every Friday and Saturday midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show  was an event. People dressed in character and sang along with the movie.

I worked there for months before I ever saw the movie and when I finally did see it I thought it was fun but very strange to my very conservative, naive, Catholic school mind. I’m sure I had no clue what it was about.

My area was the concession stand; I loved popcorn then and I love popcorn now.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Movie theater popcorn: so expensive and so delicious.

When I was a student at UT in Austin, I worked at a movie theatre walking distance from my apartment. Riverside Twin Cinema. That theatre was lot smaller and a lot quieter.

At the movies all the time.

One of the best perks about a theatre job back then was the movie passes.I loved it! And so did most of my work friends so we’d go to movies and discuss what we liked and what we didn’t like.

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Hours at the movie theater

My co-workers and I would discuss movies, sometimes heatedly. I remember a discussion about a David Bowie movie and I don’t even remember the title and one of my co-workers was like,  “It’s a comedy”  and I said,  “No, it’s a drama.” It was really funny that I don’t remember the details about the movie at all but I remember this discussion and I realized that maybe I was taking things a little too seriously and that’s what kept me from seeing the humor in this foreign film that I can’t remember at all.

Or maybe he was full of crap and it was a drama and he didn’t get it.

Another memorable moment was when my co-worker friends and I were waiting for a movie to start and overhead a conversation about how bad a movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was. One of my friends was so agitated by the negative review, we had to move out of earshot. He love everything about that movie.

Memorable movie theatre moments:

My parents would drop us off at the movies and come round us up after. I distinctly remember going to the movies to watch Walt Disney’s “The Aristocats” and my little sister must have been too young, probably only about 4 or 5, and not ready to be left in our charge because I remember her crying her head off in the middle of the movie and we didn’t know what to do with her. I was probably only about 7 or 8 and my oldest brother would have been around 11.

Imagine doing that now.

Watching Rocky for the very 1st time when I was a freshman in high school.  That was the original Rocky and the best. I was floored and my friend kind of shrugged her shoulders and said, “It was alright.”  Are you kidding me? Certainly she was nuts or maybe she didn’t get it. When it won the Oscar for best picture, I wasn’t surprised. And then to learn the story behind the making of “Rocky” and how it came to be! Amazing.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Sylvester Stallone

Superman with Christopher Reeve. What a great movie. Sure, Superman’s flying scenes and the super action-packed Superman-to-the-rescue scenes were clunky, but it didn’t matter because the chemistry between Christopher Reeve was Superman. The chemistry between the characters sold the story lines. And the musical score. Holy cow. I got a Superman t-shirt that Christmas and wore it proudly for years.

Conan the Barbarian. That was the only time I’ve ever walked out of a movie and I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness this is so very bad. Why am I here?” Who would’ve guessed that Conan would launch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long movie career. I could hardly understand what he was saying, although I don’t remember him having a lot of lines.

Studying film

Film History 101 at University of Texas at Austin. Sounds like a blow off class right? It wasn’t. The course examined the film industry and how the industry impacted history and vice versa. Starting with silent movies and to the then modern movies. When the film industry first began, many people didn’t believe that an audience could follow a story’s development, movement, changing scenes, and evolving characters with moving pictures. In class we watched film segments in class including great American films like “Birth of a Nation” directed by D. W. Griffith and “Stagecoach” directed by John Ford and saw the impact newsreels made during WW II.

Film history courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Film history

A film class I took at San Antonio College taught me an important lesson with one simple group assignment: make a short film using an 8 mm camera. That simple assignment helped me realize how difficult it is to make a film from start to finish. My group’s film ended up being a scene. We didn’t have a story. It was terrible. Another group’s film didn’t have much of a story either but the editing saved it and created a very entertaining character. That lesson transfers to all forms of art, really – film, visual art, plays, poetry, novels.

There’s an old exercise in which you create your perfect job. Mine always involved sitting around talking about books and movies. Mostly movies. I had no idea people actually did that for a living.

How things have changed

Now when I go to the movies, there’s a good chance I’ll fall asleep. Movies have changed so much over the years. So have I.

Something about the quiet movie theatre, darkness, stillness makes my eyes close. Popcorn helps me stay awake but that’s the kind of mindless snacking I try to avoid. Not always successfully, I admit.

Technology’s advanced oodles as has the movie going experience. Lots of movie theatre Megaplexes offer various forms of entertainment now, not just movies.

One thing is the same as I learned years ago, creating something from nothing is a major accomplishment on its own. Creating high quality, interesting, smart, thought provoking, and multi-layered material requires the stars to be aligned and lots of time, tenacity, and pushing forward.

Film production photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
The creative process at work

I usually have strong opinions about why I like or dislike a movie, but I try to remember my own experience making that short film and how so many factors influence the final product.

In that way, making a movie must be a little like running a marathon: finishing is winning.