Feeling trapped

What you can do to help stop Coronavirus spread

I’ve had Coronavirus on the brain for a while. Ever since the news of the virus hitting Northern Italy hard, I scour the news sources, sometimes bleary-eyed for some new bit of informtion.

By now we all know we should:

  • Practice social distancing
  • Not gather in large groups
  • Wash hands with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze in your elbow or a tissue.

With that in mind, the news is bleak.

But here are a few stories that have stayed with me and are a great reminder about what we’re dealing with.

The first is from Dr. Emily Landon from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Her message hits to the heart of our current situation and the frustrating reality that the best most of us can do is to do nothing.

She says healthcare workers around the world are doing their part to help us through the pandemic. Now, we need to do our part.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch Dr. Landon’s March 21 speech or read the transcript at:

Chicago’s Doctor’s Blunt Speech About COVID-19 Hits Home

And this message from Craig Spencer, MD in New York who (via Twitter) implores people to stay home. He says, “You might hear people say it isn’t bad. It is….I survivied Ebola. I fear COVID-19.”

Read the full account at Doctor Gives Harrowing Account of Life on the Frontline for Clinicians Treating COVID-19 in New York

Get the facts

For information about COVID-19, what it is, and how to protect you and your family go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to help this crisis pass any faster except follow your state and local guidelines.

And be patient.

Take advantage of the downtime to:

Exercise.

Even if it’s a walk around the block, a short workout, or a dance party in your living room.

Get stuff done.

Pick up those projects you’ve been putting off. It can be hard to get motivated, but start small and keep at it. Little by little you can do a lot.

Get outside.

It’s a sunny 88 degrees as I write this. Outside in the shade would be good. And even when outdoors, keep your recommended 6-feet social distance.

Waste nothing.

Freeze food before it goes bad. Be creative with your meals.

Meet virtually.

We’ve resorted to live-video, group workouts and virtual coffee meetings using What’s App. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than going it alone.

Donate time and/or money

If you have the time or money, check with your local Red Cross to find your local chapter about how you can help. They may even have ways to volunteer virtually.

As always, a little gratitude goes a long way.

Reach out to others if you need a word of encouragement, a videochat, a roll of toilet paper, an egg…whatever.

Wishing you patience and health through this crisis.

Need some motivation to kick start your new project? Read What are you waiting for? on the blog.

photo by ruby montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Reminder: You can’t control anyone but yourself.

We all know this if we really think about it, but sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves…you can’t control anyone but yourself.

What other people do/say/think is out of your control. 

So why do I let people bother me?

I know it’s not helpful or productive and wish I could let stuff roll off my back and not be bothered by what people say/do/think, but it’s hard. 

As the comedian Sebastian Maniscalco – says, “I like to be bothered.”

Allowing myself to be bothered by what other people do forces me to take my eye off the ball. 

It changes my concentration and energy. 

I try to not be bothered. Really try. 

The other day I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli for breakfast and, as you may know, Jason’s Deli’s main serving time is lunch. The place was hopping with dozens of workers in red shirts prepping catered lunches for delivery and prepping the salad bar, dining room, and sandwich station for customers. 

I had my journal and some reading material to keep me busy. There was a hum to the place as everyone did what he or she was supposed to be doing, each to his or her own task.

Except one guy who sat across from me on the other side of the dining room. He wore a Jason’s Deli shirt, looked to be about 40 maybe, and sat sideways at a table by himself watching videos on his phone. Loudly.

As I mentioned, the place hummed in preparation for the lunch rush. Everyone had something to do. Except this guy. 

I wondered what he was doing and why he was the only employee who didn’t seem to have anything to do. Was he not on the clock? Was he waiting for a ride? What? And why did he have to play his video at top volume? Headphones, dude! 

I looked around for the manager, not so I could report the guy, but out of curiosity. Had he seen this guy sitting around doing nothing but watch videos while everyone else was busting his or her butt?

But if the manager had seen the guy, he clearly wasn’t as bothered as I was.

This video-watching-on-high-volume-without-headphones guy totally changed my vibe. He irritated the heck out of me. 

But wait! That’s not what happened at all. 

What really happened is… I let him get to me. 

His actions were out of my control. Reporting him to a manager could have influenced the situation, but would that have been worth it to me?

The reality of the situation was:

  • I don’t know why he was loafing around in the dining room. 
  • Yes, the video blaring on his phone was obnoxious, but big deal.
  • He wasn’t hurting anyone. Just annoying the hell out of me.
  • I could have wrangled my own thoughts better. 

Controlling myself vs. controlling others. 

I couldn’t control him. Not even my stink-eye glances got his attention. I let him get under my skin and throw me off balance.

And I didn’t even know the guy, although that doesn’t matter either. 

It can be infuriating when someone you know and love behaves/thinks/says things you wish you could change. 

But you can’t do that either. 

Influence? Maybe. The best you can hope to do is influence that person. 

I imagine I have a similar effect on people at times.

Life will be sweeter if I remember this

I can’t control people, what they do or what they say, I can’t control what happens, I can’t control the weather. 

All I can hope to control is my reaction to those things. And I must do my best to react in a manner in line with who I am and who I strive to be every day, to be compassionate, loving, and patient. 

So pretty much the opposite of how I reacted to that poor guy who apparently was losing his hearing and had to play his phone so loud they could hear it in the parking lot. 

: )  

For more on this topic, read Be the gatekeeper of your joy

Movie theater

A movie at a movie theater is still the best

I want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about going to the movies. I know, it’s kind of a strange thing to talk about because what’s there to say, really? You either like it or you don’t. 

But I want to dive deeper into this activity, going to the movies, not just the medium. Sure there are a gazillion movies you can stream at home for a fraction of the cost of going to a movie theater. 

And depending on the circumstances, that can be fine. 

But I believe there’s nothing like the experience of watching a movie at a movie theater so I’m going to talk about why it’s still the best way to experience cinema.

The screen.

Mark and I went to a special screening of Jaws last year and I don’t think I’ve been as scared of that mechanical shark since I first saw it in 1975 when it was first released.

Jaws was a summer blockbuster that year. My cousins and I waited in a line that wrapped around the Century South Theater building. (You don’t see that much anymore)

I’ve seen Jaws on TV tons of times. Still good, but not scary. 

But omg. ***spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen Jaws**** When the shark comes after the guy at the end, his blood-curdling, high-pitched, agonizing shriek made me cringe for real. It was horrible. Maybe the sound system added to the experience. 

And one scene when they’re out on the boat and it’s twilight, I never noticed in all the times I’ve seen the movie, what a beautiful shot that is or the shooting star flashing across sky. 

Nothing can make a bad movie good, but a good movie is better at the theater. And maybe intended to be experienced on the big screen. 

It’s a communal event.

Getting out and seeing people and sharing the movie experience is a thing. You may not talk to fellow movie-goers, but you now have a shared experience. Mark and I usually sit through the credits and we always talk about what we saw.

Sometimes it’s a short conversation, like Wow that was really good. And then we talk about why. I’m not saying this type of dialogue isn’t possible at home, but at home we’re more likely to switch it to something else immediately and it’s just not the same.

At one of the movie theaters we go to there’s an older crowd and I believe they must have a movie club. I think that’s a great idea, like book clubs discuss what you read, movie clubs discuss what you saw, what you liked, what you didn’t like. What a great way to connect with people. 

Gets you out of the house.

You know the animated science-fiction Pixar movie Wall E? Earth has been destroyed and humans hover on a home ship waiting for the all clear to go back to earth. Well, in the Wall E world, humans don’t have to get out of their chair for anything, not even a drink, because they have an AI/robot doing everything for them.

Does that sound just a teensy bit familiar?

We can stream just about everything from home, get our fast food and groceries and whatever else we desire delivered…it’s almost like we’re conveniencing ourselves right into the Wal E future. Agh!

It might be easier to stay home and watch a movie, but easier is not always better. Going to the movies gets you out of the house. And there are tons of theaters now that will serve you once you’re there. 

The many elements of moviemaking

Years and years ago, I took a film class at San Antonio College. It was a summer session class and our final assignment was to make a short film, 4-5 mins. We shot on an 8 mm camera and had free reign of the campus. Of the 7 or 8 films made in that class, only 1 came even close to being decent (not my group’s) which was suprising as heck because we’d seen the raw footage. Terrible. As bad or worse than the rest.

Somehow, that crappy footage was pieced together to be funny and interesting. The magic was in the editing.

Making a movie is really hard to do.  When you watch a movie you’re watching the result of maybe years of effort, collaboration, coordination, prepation, and work. All for you.

It’s kinda cool when you think of it that way, isn’t it?

I’d love to know what you think. Do you go to the movies? If not, why not? If you do, what about it do you like?

Read more about going to the movies on the blogpost: Going to the Movies

End of Your Life Book Club

Book recommendation: End of Your Life Book Club

This is a book recommendation for The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. (I listened to the audiobook version read by Jeff Harding.) 

Last December, I was looking for something good to read and found this title on my running list of books someone has recommended, either somone I know or some other source, like a magazine or newspaper.

I didn’t remember what the book was about or who had recommended it, but the audiobook was available on Libby so I decided to check it out.

A 2-person book club?

The book is the story is of a mother and son, both readers, who start their 2-person book club when the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They will spend many hours in conversation as he accompanies her to doctor appointments and chemo treatments and agree to read the same book so they can talk about it.

Judging from the title alone, it seems like the story would be gloomy and sad, but I didn’t find it so at all. 

Here are a few things I loved about it:

I love that the core of the book is conversations between a mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, and her son, Will Schwalbe, the author of the book.

Through the long hours of chemo treatments with his mom he gets to know her like he never had before. He learns about her younger years and life choices, and what shaped her into the woman who became his mother. 

Through these conversation the reader learns about this extraordinary, smart, humble, and compassionate woman. She believed she had a responsibility to help people if she could. And even though she knew she couldn’t do everything, she knew she could do something. And so she did. Alot, including working with refugee families in Afghanistan and work tirelessly to build a library there. 

And, oh yes, books

As you might have guessed, The End of Your Life Book Club is about books, how reading can change your life. It’s about how stories relate the shared human experience. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit in on this 2-person club. And I’m grateful for a chance to meet someone like Mary Ann Schwalbe. Her legacy lives on through this story.

If you’re looking for a good read, I recommend it. 

End of Your Life Book Club is available in audiobook, ebook, and print. I encourage you to look for it at your local library and Libby.

For more information about the Libby app, read Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help.

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 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.comWe 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.