Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

If not now, when?

If there’s something you want to do in this life, something you think you’re meant to do but just haven’t gotten around to doing for some reason, I encourage you to start.

You may have had reasons, really good, legit reasons for not doing the thing(s) you know you’ve always wanted to do, the 2 most all-encompassing reasons are: not enough time or not enough money.

I was reading a “Dear Heloise” column recently in which a reader wrote to say that Heloise suggests that people should travel to different countries but how can he do that when it’s so expensive and he doesn’t have the money?

Heloise proceeded to make suggestions about how the reader could save and/or earn more money for his trip. She ended her advice with, “Make your next trip your priority.”

And that’s the most important advice: Make your (insert word or phrase for the thing you want to do) your priority.

That’s the only way to make it happen.

Which leads me back to the question: “If not now, when?”

Will you start now? And if not now, when will you make those things you’ve always wanted to do your priority?

No one’s saying you have to forget your commitments and responsibilities. Not at all. But how can your goals and dreams become a reality if you don’t put those goals and dreams in the forefront of your mind and make them your priority?

Start now. It’s okay to start small, but don’t wait.

Working at my desk.

Time goes and goes.

Where has the beginning of 2019 gone? I’m amazed that April is just days away. I have a lot on my goals list this year. Time to re-focus and prioritize.

And I have to ask myself these questions:

  • What do I really want to do?
  • What am I doing to work toward that goal?
  • If nothing, why not? When will it be a priority?

The point is the same as what Heloise explained to her reader.

People can offer numerous creative solutions to help us overcome obstacles in order to reach our goals, but unless we make them a priority they’ll continue to be a thing that will happen “someday”.

If we wait for the perfect moment the path is clear and no obstacles stand in our way, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

Until we make our goals a priority and take steps to make them a reality, those obstacles sound a lot like excuses.

So what is it you want to do? What are you doing now to work toward your goal?

If not now, when?

Read Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach for my own “If not now, when?” moment.

The magic of gratitude

The magic of gratitude

Gratitude can change your life. It’s like magic. And even though I truly believe this, it still catches me off-guard when I experience how amazing it is.

Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Wow. Can it really do all that?

Gratitude. It’s a simple thing: being thankful for what you have.

Plug in to your gratitude funnel

So what’s so special about gratitude and if it’s so great why isn’t everyone doing it? It’s free, doesn’t require any special training or certifications.

The truth is it takes practice to be in a constant state of gratitude, especially if you’re the type of person who tends to notice what’s wrong before noticing what’s right.

Sometimes we’re just not all that thrilled about the way things are, sometimes we just want to complain about about any number of things we let get under our skin: mundane tasks, people who don’t do/say/think what we think they should, unexpected setbacks, an uncertain future. Some of these things are big, life-changing events, some are small, regular, petty things.

Yes, it takes practice to have a mindset of gratitude. For some of us (ahem), lots of practice.

Take this example: I was doing laundry the other day and I really didn’t feel like doing laundry. I was just about to say out loud, “Oh my gosh, I hate doing laundry,” when I remembered my goal to practice gratitude, especially when I want to complain about something.

So I said, “I’m grateful that I can do laundry, that I have clothes to wash, that I’m physically able to do it, that I have machines that do most of the work.”

All of a sudden, I felt pretty good about doing laundry.

I realized that gratitude doesn’t actually change anything (I was still doing laundry) except percecption (having the ability to do my laundry is a good thing), thereby changing the experience (instead of feeling cranky about it, I was genuinely happy that I had the good fortune to be doing my laundry).

Where’s the magic?

The magic is real and it’s all internal, not external. Gratitude transforms the way we experience our circumstances.

I recently read Jen Sencero’s book, “You Are a Badass” (which is awesome, by the way) and she said that when something happens that sets you back, try being grateful for that thing instead of being frustrated and angry.

I thought it was a crazy idea, but I thought I’d try it when I got the chance.

And my chance came soon enough. It was a silly, petty thing (aren’t those the things that can be most upsetting at times?) I was trying to leave the house for an appointment and was running late. I remembered I’d filled a glass of water to drink before I headed out the door and when I reached for it I knocked over the glass, spilling water all over the counter and on myself. Great! I thought, If I take the time to change I’ll be even later than I already am!

But then I remembered Jen Sencero’s advise. Okay. Stop and think about this. No, this is good. I’m glad this happened, I thought to myself.

I had to laugh because by me saying I was glad about it meant that I had to come up with a reason this was a good thing. It forced me to think about what was happening and allowed me to stop before spouting off a few choice words and, instead, I decided to take a deep breath, slow down, and relax.

There is no need to rush. Everything will be okay. It’s water. My shirt will dry. I’m grateful to have clean water to drink every day.

Practice, practice, practice

Practicing an attitude of gratitude takes concious and continuous focus, but I’m discovering that it’s well worth the effort.

Try it and see if you agree that gratitude is like magic.

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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 Ruby Montalvo publshed on rubymontalov.com

It’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt

Starting a project is hard. Finishing is hard. But it’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt. That’s what I’m going through right now as I’m writing the sequel to my first novel, A Song for Jessica.

But the struggle to get to “The End” isn’t unique to writing.

Think of a remodeling project.

I love those home improvement commercials that start by showing the outdated, dull room, then the guy/woman/couple decide it’s time for a change.

Next scene, they’re at the store picking out their new products for the remodel. The guy/woman/couple smile, the sales clerk smiles (they actually find someone to help them!).

Next scene, the remodel happens. They tape a door frame and stir the paint. Simple and clean.

And then the very next scene, the work’s all done! The guy/woman/couple straighten a picture they’ve just hung on the wall as a finishing touch.

Now they stand back and admire their work. It’s beautiful and perfect.

If only it were that easy.

What they don’t show is the back and forth “disussion” about design, colors, materials, and cost. “Discussion” about the best way to do it, the unexpected kinks in the plan, then what to have for dinner because there’s dust and/or paint everywhere, and that goes on for days or weeks and maybe the project is never totally finished.

The struggle is real.

Getting to “The End” of a project can be exhausting and frustrating, but it’s do-able.

It helps to:

  • Be patient. Expect your project to take time and effort. You have to want it bad enough to believe the time and effort will be worth it in the end. (Remember the remodeling scenario.)
  • Pace yourself. If it’s a long road to the finish, slow and steady is more likely to get you there, especially if it feels like the work is an unpleasant grind. I was working on revisions to a first draft I finished months before and every time I worked on it I wanted to give it up, just abandon the project. But one page at a time, that’s the only way to do it. Slow progress is still progress, right?
  • Be open to getting help if you can. It’s hard to trust another person with a project that’s your baby, but the right person can make a big difference in the end result. Another set of eyes, an extra hand can be the boost you need.
  • Set up an accountability partner who can give you a gentle push to the end. It’s like having someone cheering you on to the finish line.
  • Set a schedule–break down what needs to be done and pace it out to an end date. For me, it’s a way to help visualize the end of the project. But be flexible. Remember, stuff happens and some days you’ll be more productive than others.

If you’re struggling to get the “The End” of a project, you’re not alone. It’s not easy.

But don’t let that stop you from getting started, whatever it is you want to do.

For more tips on Why it’s so hard to finish what you start and what you can do about it, click here.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

A small victory outside my comfort zone

I had a Book Signing at the Barnes and Noble store in Corpus Christi a few weeks ago and it was a big deal for me for a couple of reasons.

First, it was my 1st ever Barnes and Noble event and, to me, brick and mortar stores are still really important. (See my post 4 Ways in person shopping is good for your health). There’s nothing like talking to other people who love books. (Somehow I hadn’t realized what a major book-nerd I am!)

Second, I would be among strangers. I was not in my hometown and my friends and family wouldn’t be there. I would be talking to people I’d just met. Except for my husband, Mark, who patiently sat and listened to me read from my book  : ) I’d be meeting all new people.

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

Opportunity lies past your comfort zone.

Maybe it helped that my husband was with me and I knew I’d have at least one person in the audience. I loved being there and seeing my book among a bunch of other books. It didn’t matter that I was in the Cookbook section and near the toys and games.

It was a great reminder about why I write and what that’s all about.

I sold 2 books (yay!) and the 2 women who bought them could relate to my novel’s plot for different reasons. It was a really great reminder that even though my story’s not for everyone, it’s for some people. I have to get out of my own way and just tell the story. Then I have to work to help people find it.

Practice, practice, practice.

Only 3 people stopped at my table and I was there 2 hours, so I read from my book and did a Q & A session. That’s right, my husband asked me questions like, “How do you come up with names for the characters of your book?” and “Do you know what’s going to happen when you write? Do you know how your story will end?” I used a small sound system and read random chapters of my book, which was great practice for my audiobook recording.

Here’s the thing that’s really interesting about that: My husband, Mark, knows this story, A Song for Jessica, and my process better than anyone else. But he asked questions he was genuinely curious about.

I learned that it’s very different to know something in my head and another thing entirely to talk about them. Speaking to an audience of one was very good practice.

Nothing’s wasted.

A writer commented on Twitter the other day about coming across a story she’d written years ago and had never developed but then fell in love with it again. And she said, “Nothing’s ever wasted.” That’s kind of how I feel about the Q & A and reading to my husband.

Everyone has a story.

When I first decided to self-publish my book and started learning about marketing, one of the people I follow said, get out of your office and meet people. She said authors tend to do great online and in ads and marketing, but we struggle to get in front of people. I’ve been the opposite. I love meeting and talking to people, even if they don’t want to buy my book. I’m always amazed by the compelling and fascinating stories of regular people and the choices that determine outcomes. I’m reminded that I’m still writing mine.

A small victory

When it seems like you’re not making much progress and your efforts feel pointless, remember that small victories can be hugely satisfying.

And bear in mind:

  • Opportunity lies past your comfort zone.
  • Practice is good.
  • It’s okay if your work isn’t for everyone.
  • Nothing’s wasted.
  • Everyone has a story.

Thanks to Jessica and the Barnes and Noble Corpus Christi staff for welcoming me to their beautiful store. I’m grateful for the opportunity. 

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.

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

Celebrate?

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

Wayside altars in Italy

One of the things that stood out on my recent trip to Italy is the Catholic influence in culture. Catholicism is by far the dominant religion in Italy, of course. Many of the famous artistic masterpieces are religious in nature, such as The Statue of David and the Sistine Chapel.

And, of course, people flock to Italy from all over the world to see these amazing masterpieces.

But wayside altars were an unexpected treasure.

Catholic influence

Of course, these types of shrines can be found in many places, not just in Italy, but they seem fairly common here. Maybe it’s simply another indication of the huge Catholic influence in the country.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
This one reminded my husband and me of the tree where Boo Radley left “gifts” for Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.

They’re often near shops or restaurants. This one’s beside a parking lot.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
Near a ceramic shop in Nove, Italy

The altars may commemorate an incident that took place there. Maybe the location holds some personal significance to the person who erected it.

Or maybe they’re meant to honor Jesus, The Virgin Mary, and/or a Catholic saint.

No matter the reason, I found them interesting and beautiful. And Italian.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
Italian wayside altar

 

Interested in reading more about Italy, readRiposo (a time for afternoon rest) is a serious Italian tradition

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Be patient and trust the process when it feels like you’re getting nowhere

Have you ever felt like you were fumbling along just trying to figure things out and hoping for the best? Like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. Parenting can feel a lot like that (it did for me!), or taking a leap of faith without a net.

In a previous blogpost, What to do when you feel stuck in the weeds I covered some tips to help get you through those times when you feel unfocused, overwhelmed, or unsure you’re on the right track.

That’s what I call being in the weeds. The tips:

  1. Stay flexible
  2. Connect with people who’ve been where you are
  3. Find a process that works for you
  4. Trust the process

If you missed the post about being flexible, click hereOr the 2nd post about connecting with people who’ve been where you are, click here. Or the 3rd about finding a process that works for you, click here.

So you’ve been flexible to help you find your way back to your clear path, you’ve done your research and decided on a process to help get you there, and you’ve gotten started.

Time to trust the process

Even when you have a roadmap to get where you’re going, you’re bound to face unexpected challenges that get you off-track along the way. Weeds. Don’t let them stop you. Make adjustments and regroup if necessary, then keep moving forward and don’t give up.

But we can be impatient. We want results because we want to know that our investments — our time, effort, money — will be worthwhile.

No one likes failing. Sure it feel great to win. It’s validation. Winning validates that your work, blood, sweat, and tears have not been wasted.

Failure can be tough on the ego, on the psyche.

But what if we back it up and look at what we’re doing and trust the process.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay Creative Commons published on rubymontalvo.com
Photo courtesy of Pixabay Creative Commons

Use it as a guide

Maintain flexibility and tweak as necessary.

We learn best by doing and things will not always go as planned. Sometimes they’re way better than we planned, but inevitably there’ll be times when they’re way worse.

No problem. Do it again. Julia Child said, “If you’re going to have a fear of failure, you’re just never going to learn how to cook. Because cooking is lots of it — one failure after another. And that’s how you finally learn.”

That’s true for most things.

Trust the process.

A friend was transitioning to a newly designed process at work that would make her job easier.

She had trouble adjusting to the new process. When she tried applying the newfound principles she freaked out. She wanted to revert back to her old way of doing things, but that wasn’t an option.

As difficult as it was, she had to trust the process, to work through it, make mistakes, learn from her mistakes, make adjustments, and then do it again.

It took a major mental shift for her to stick with it, to not give up and trust the process.

Be patient.

Remember, failure’s part of the process.

Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Don’t let fear of failure keep you from trying.

Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, trust the process and keep moving forward. It’s the only way you’ll ever get on track to reach your goals.

You can do it!

Photo courtesy of Pixabay accessed via Google published on strong-woman.com

You’re never too old to set another goal

You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~ C S Lewis


It’s such a positive message.

So often we hear the opposite:

You’re too old for that. You’re not a kid.

We can listen to people who say, “You’re too old to (fill in the blank).” We may even hear our own voice whispering similar discouragement, those messages that stem from our own fears or excuses that say, “Don’t be ridiculous. What are you thinking?”

photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

 

Or we can listen to C. S. Lewis and believe that as long as we have the dream in our heart and we’re still breathing, it’s not too late. As long as we have the desire, even though it may not be easy or without obstacles, we can still take steps toward new dreams and goals.

Thinking we’re too old is how we let ourselves off the hook.

Excuses?

We tend to look back with regret. We say, “If only I would’ve done (something different) 5 years ago. Or even 10 years ago, then everything would be different now.”

And the more time we spend looking back, regretting something in our past, the more time we spend not moving forward.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com accessed via Google published on strong-woman.com

We convince ourselves that it’s too late instead of getting out of our own way and getting to work.

Sure, people might think we’re wasting our time. They may think it’s pointless, that we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. And we may have moments where we agree with that thinking. 

We could let all that negative thinking stop us. Or we can believe what C. S. Lewis says, that we’re never too old.

While we’re able, before it really is too late, let’s dream a new dream, set a new goal.

Let’s get started, then keep going.