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.

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 on strong-woman.com

Choose the Opportunity of Now

My husband introduced me to a website wolframalpha.com “an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge”. The website provides facts – quantifiable facts. It doesn’t provide opinions or recommendations.

Interesting information

Type in Chicago, Illinois and you’ll get Chicago’s population statistics, current weather and time, income statistics, demographics, and more.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Put in today’s date and you’ll get information about observances and holidays, moon phase, sunrise and sunset times, and more.

Type in a specific date and year, like your birthday, and you’ll get the day of the week it was and how many days have passed since that date.

It provides facts. Facts alone aren’t disputable. It’s what you do with the information that can make a difference. For me, the information it provided spurred more questions and judgement.

Facts made personal

For example, I put in my birthday. I was born more than 20 thousands days ago. That’s more than 2800 weeks. That’s really a long time. I had to ask: Have I done enough? It makes me wonder about how many more days will I have and how will I do everything I want to do?Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

It’s easy to get discouraged about the time that’s passed, to feel sad about getting older.

Most of us struggle with that at one point or another.

But I realize it’s better to get excited about right now and living each day being as happy and productive as I can. Not so much to live each day as if it were my last, but to not waste it regretting the past. It’s much better to be motivated about the opportunity of now.

Almost exactly a year ago, that’s 365 days, I quit my job as a school librarian and decided I wanted to do something different, that what I really want to do is write. I finished my 1st draft of my 1st novel on March 15 of this year. As of this blogpost, that’s just over 80 days ago.

I’m on the 3rd draft of revisions.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

Isn’t it a little late to start a new career? Maybe.

What could I have done if I’d started when I was in my 20’s. A lot more than starting in my 50’s.

Would I be a better writer now? Almost certainly.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

And yet, I know it’s pointless to re-visit past career choices and wonder if I’ve made good use of my 20 thousand days.

The more important question is “What now?” Better to move forward grateful for every day and the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

It’s not just about living in the present. It’s also about looking forward to the future.

We all know our time is limited. That reality can be either depressing or motivating. Each of us has to decide for ourselves which it will be.

Choose to be motivated by the opportunity of now.

Photo courtesy of National Archives Project on flickr.com published on strong-woman.com

Mindset Monday – Have a Mindset of Self-Control

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Back in the day, we used to call it a “put down”. Something said or done to make you feel bad, to make you feel inferior.

Some one may “put you down” in order to feel superior to you in some way. Maybe it’s an attempt to manipulate what you say or do.

Words have power

We can be mean to each other. It’s normal to feel bad when some one says something

Downloaded from pixabay.com public domain published on strong-woman.com
Eleanor Roosevelt

hurtful, especially if it’s some one you love and trust.

But when a person tries to put you down and keep you down for the purpose of making you feel like you:

Aren’t good, smart, or deserving enough,

Know that you control that.

You can’t change people, but it takes two to play that game. And you don’t have to play.

You can’t control what people say or do, but you can control your reaction to it.

What can you do to help yourself?
  • Let your actions speak louder than your words
  • Listen
  • Be respectful

Then, you can walk away with confidence, peace, forgiveness, and grace.

We can’t control others. The best we can ever hope for is to control ourselves. For most of us, it’s a constant work in progress.

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

Mindset Monday – Sprinkle Your Day With Gratitude

Gratitude is a simple concept.

It’s that feeling that what you have is good. And that what you have is enough for you to be happy today.

Why be grateful?

Gratitude brings a level of contentment and satisfaction to each day. And sometimes it takes practice.

Start with a sprinkle.Stretching in Autumn photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Instead of looking at what’s going wrong, think of what’s going right.

When you’re tempted to focus on what you don’t have, shift your focus to what you do have.

Rather than getting discouraged about what you haven’t accomplished, look at how far you’ve come.

Instead of saying, “I wish I had…”, say “I’m grateful that I have…”

Gratitude opens your heart

Expressing gratitude opens your heart to the goodness life offers, and an open heart makes way for more blessings.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Do you have what you need?

What are the bare necessities of life? Not much. Air, food, shelter.

And yet what do you have beyond that?

Consider the people and things you use, interact with, work for, and would miss like crazy if they weren’t there.

Don’t take anything for granted. Life is precious.

Sprinkle every day with gratitude. Or go ahead and pour it on. You can’t overdo it.

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

Mindset Monday – Love Yourself Like You Mean It

Oscar Wilde once said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Love yourself like you’re in it for keeps.

Lifelong romance kind of love – that’s the good stuff. Work toward that.Photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Make it nurturing, forgiving, patient, respectful, humble, and kind.

Be nurturing. Take care of yourself – body, mind, and spirit.

Be forgiving. We all make mistakes and being able to forgive means forgetting pride and getting past the mistake, error, or wrong. Even the big ones.

Be kind. We can be our own worst and most unkind critic. Turn it around and work to be your own best and kindest supporter.

Be patient. We’re all a work in progress. And wherever you are in the process of being the best you possible, understand that you may not “get it” right away. Keep at it. Don’t give up.Weight loss photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Be respectful. Actions speak louder than words, but words speak pretty loudly. You’re worthy of respect from yourself as well as from others .

Accept yourself as you are. Accept where you are and believe your’e worthy of love from others. Instead of looking at what you can’t do or what you don’t have, take stock in what you do have. Stop tripping over what’s behind you. Accept where you are and move forward.

Be humble. Build others up. Let your actions and work speak for themselves.

Love posted on strong-woman.com

Oscar Wilde is on to something.

Because no matter what, in the end, there you are.

Better to love yourself than not.

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Love More, Judge Less

If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Mother Teresa

At a busy intersection near my house, a young man held a sign asking for money. I didn’t have cash, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have given him any.

My judgement:

He looked young and healthy enough to get a job and earn money rather than begging for it.

Take care of yourself with a quiet commute published on strong-woman.com

I hate to admit that because as much as I try not to judge people, I find myself doing it every day.

I try not to judge for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want other people to judge me and second,  I’m not perfect, so who am I to judge?

From past experience I’ve learned that you can’t tell by looking at some one what he or she is about – their struggles, challenges, or difficulties. Assumptions often prove to be false.

On the other hand, I may be right about that young man on the corner, but so what?

Downloaded from Web published on strong-woman.com

I’m no Mother Teresa, that’s for sure, but I agree with her: You can’t love people when you’re judging them.

You get what you give.

Want more love? Give more love. Mix it with compassion, understanding, and patience.

Give less judgment, intolerance, anger, and hate.

Phew!

I’m going to have to practice this. How about you?

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

10 Things to Do to Keep You Healthy and Happy Through the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It can also be overwhelming and stressful, making it a challenge to stay happy and healthy. As always, it’s important to do what you can to take care of yourself so you can be your best.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
Stay healthy and happy this holiday season.

Here are 10 things to do to help you stay healthy and happy through the holiday season:

1. Get moving

Do what you can to get your body moving. If you track your steps, shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day. Or get outdoors and go for a walk or run. Get active by going for a bike ride, Or ski, bowl, hike, golf, Frisbee, Frisbee golf, dance, go to a workout class – whatever.

Some of the benefits of exercise – helps relieve stress by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, and increasing endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Equalizes hormone levels.

Graphic courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Get moving.
2. Take 3 minutes

Start your day with at least 3 minutes of quiet time. Yes, you’re busy, but investing at least 3 minutes every morning will help put you in a positive state of mind and set the course for your day. Use the time for light stretching, deep breathing, positive encouragement, silent prayer, or just silence.

3. Smile

You’ve probably heard the phrase: Fake it ’til you make it. What’s really cool about fake smiling is that your brain doesn’t know you’re faking your smile. You’re smiling. That’s it. The action sends a signal to your brain that you’re okay – guess what? – you feel okay, maybe even a little happier. It’s like magic. So especially when you don’t really feel like it, smile.

4. Laugh

Fake laughing follows the same principal as fake smiling in helping you feel happy. Laughing is a little less convenient because for some reason it’s not normal to just bust out laughing for no reason.

Our bodies are such amazing creations and the mind-body connection is real. You may have heard of studies that use laughter yoga for pain management. It works. So when you feel a little stressed, laugh like Santa Claus “ho ho ho” and then throw in a “ha ha ha”. Repeat. Get a friend to join you for double the laughs.

5. Hydrate

Drinking water is so important to keep you feeling your best. Busy holiday schedules tend to disrupt healthy habits so keep a glass of water at hand and drink up. How much water should you be drinking? What’s usually recommended is half your body weight in ounces, more if you’re sweating.

image of a cup with water on menopause strong-woman.com
Hydrate
6. Limit Alcohol

While water helps hydrate, alcohol dehydrates. Studies released in the past few years make headlines when they shout, “Hey, doctors say wine’s good for you!” Those same studies recommend limiting alcohol to one serving a day for women, two servings a day for men. One serving is of wine is 4 – 5 ounces. To put it in perspective, that’s slightly more that half a cup.

7. Eat healthy

Keep it as simple as you can. Eat more vegetables, limit sugar, and control portions. Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day so you don’t get over-hungry and you’re able to be more mindful of your food choices. Read more suggestions about making good food choices at Take Care of Your Body.

Salad phot courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Choose healthy snacks.
8. Sleep

It’s a hectic time, but sleep is the time when you’re body re-charges and rejuvenates. Schedule your sleep time and do your best to stick with it. Try shutting down electronic devices, including phones, tablets, televisions, an hour before your scheduled bedtime. The blue light in electronics is thought to inhibit the sleep hormone, melatonin, making it harder for you to get to sleep.

9. Give up on perfection

Those Christmas specials and holiday commercials don’t seem real – the ones where homes are perfect, the holiday table looks beautiful, the turkey is roasted to golden perfection, and there’s a brand new luxury car in the driveway. If it works out that way, excellent! But if it works out like the dinner in A Christmas Story where the turkey winds up on the floor and the family ends up going out for Chinese food, that’s okay too.

10. Have a heart of gratitude

As always, and especially when life gets hectic, have a heart of gratitude. When you consciously recognize the people and things you’re grateful for, it helps take the edge off and so you don’t sweat the small stuff.

Woman facing sunrise published on strong-woman.com
Have a heart of gratitude.

Those are the 10 things to do to help keep you happy and healthy through the holidays:

  1. Get moving
  2. Take 3 minutes
  3. Smile
  4. Laugh
  5. Hydrate
  6. Limit alcohol
  7. Eat healthy
  8. Sleep
  9. Give up on perfection
  10. Have a heart of gratitude

Keep your health and happiness on your list of things to do this holiday season. Finish 2016 strong and be ready to welcome a new year feeling strong and happy.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Gift Ideas for People Who Have Enough Stuff

Giving gifts is a Christmas tradition for lots of people, my family included. But what do you give people who say they have enough stuff? That they don’t want or need anything, but you still want to continue your tradition of gift-giving?

....For it is in giving that we receive.   St. Francis of Assisi
Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
Statue of St. Francis of Assisi

Here are some gift ideas for people who say they don’t want anything and don’t need more stuff.

Pampering

  1. Spa day
  2. Manicure
  3. Pedicure
  4. Massage
  5. Hair Style
  6. Facial

Time Shares

  1. Meal and a Hike
  2. A meal and a movie
  3. Day trip
  4. Sporting event
  5. Go to a Concert
  6. Picnic in the park
  7. Playing tourist (in town)
  8. Bowling
  9. Skating
  10. Game night
Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
Handmade Ornament

At their service

  1. Housecleaning
  2. Wash and vacuum car
  3. Home cooked dinner
  4. Wash the windows
  5. Assist with some project/maintenance
  6. A week of Meal Prep meals

Tribute Item

  1. Photo collage
  2. Video of memorable photos
  3. Tribute video
  4. Song collection

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

Sponsored Activity

  1. Trial membership to a gym
  2. Dance lessons
  3. Yoga session(s)
  4. Bungee workout
  5. Pilates sessions
  6. Tandem sky dive jump

These are just a few gift ideas for the person who has lots of stuff and says they don’t need anything. Some of the items may be activities you’re doing anyway, but focusing time and energy and thoughtfully planning a simple occasion, like a picnic in the park, help make that event particularly memorable.

Giving can be tremendous and joyful without spending a load of money. Keep it simple, think it through, and be creative. Surely,that special person will get as much joy in receiving your amazing gift as you get in giving.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Gain Perspective by Seeing Blessings in Disguise

The other day I was super excited about my first meeting with a bloggers Meet Up I had joined. I still consider myself a baby blogger and I couldn’t wait to hear about their blogging experience, to share ideas, and learn from them.

Anticipation

I showed up at the designated time and location ready to meet these fellow bloggers and realized I didn’t know what they looked like. How would I recognize them? I asked a few people if they were there for the bloggers Meet Up. Nope. Not them.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Ready to meet fellow bloggers at a coffee shop

Never mind, I thought. I found a table and decided to open my laptop and get ready to work while I waited for my fellow bloggers. It was then that I saw the messages that had come in as I was en-route to the meeting. People were sick or couldn’t make it, so the meeting was cancelled 5 minutes after I arrived.

Disappointment

I felt crushed. I thought, man, I was so looking forward to this! Come on! I’m not sick! I’m here! What the heck?

I’d been looking forward to this meeting for weeks and built up my expectations for this awesome chance to connect with these people. I was totally bummed.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
I felt so disappointed.

After calling my husband to commiserate, having my pity party, and feeling downright sad that the meeting was cancelled, it hit me.

Blessings

How blessed am I that I have the luxury of being upset about this meeting being cancelled? I considered the things that got me to that moment, including waking up healthy, having a car, a phone, food, and an opportunity to blog in the first place.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Count your blessings.

Instead of focusing on the dozens of things that went right that day, I focused on the one thing that had gone wrong.

That put things in perspective.

Miracle of the moment

When we look at what’s wrong, we can’t see what’s right. We miss the miracle of the moment.

Sometimes things don’t go our way and we feel disappointed and discouraged. We struggle to maintain good spirits, happiness, gratitude, and hope.

Our frustration prevents us from seeing what an amazing gift it is to be disappointed over some small thing, some minor setback – an anticipated meeting being cancelled, a slow internet connection, a traffic jam, our team losing a big game, or a gazillion other things.

All we can ever be sure of is right now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

Photo credit Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com
Each day is a blessing.

We get caught up in the daily busy-ness of life. Sometimes we’re pulled in so many different directions that things get complicated. With everything we need to do, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

We struggle to live in the moment and pay attention to the miracle of today, to act with a spirit of gratitude for love of family and friends, food on the table, and basic needs met. We forget how blessed we are to have the luxury of feeling frustrated over small things.

Do these 4 things to help you shift your perspective when you’re feeling frustrated, discouraged, or disappointed:

Stop.
Take a deep breath.
Count your blessings.
Choose to focus on what’s right in your world.

So many things are out of our control. The best we can hope to do is control our attitude, emotions and actions every day. Looking through a lens of gratitude doesn’t change anything except how you see things.

The choice is yours.