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

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 courtesy of published on

What are you waiting for?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but haven’t done it because it’s just never been the right time?

So that “something” becomes one of those gnawing passions that doesn’t go away, that thing you feel like you should be doing, but for some reason, you’re not; something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting your degree, starting a charity or foundation, starting a blog, writing poetry, painting, doing yoga, learning to juggle, performing as a clown, or traveling the world.

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you want to do that?” you may have a hard time answering.

There may not be a clear or straightforward explanation for wanting to do this thing you want to do. All you know is that somewhere along the way a seed was planted in your soul that made you think, “I want to do that.”

But “Life got in the way,” as they say.

When we say “Life got in the way,” it makes it seem as if there’s a straight path to something ahead and along the way you live life, maybe get married, have kids, buy a house, etc.

We wait to:

  • have kids grow up
  • have more money
  • pay off the car
  • lose weight
  • get a better job
  • get a promotion
  • have more time
  • get more training
  • be more mentally prepared
  • have better conditions

But “Life” goes on. And all those moving parts and people in your life sometimes move and act in ways you don’t expect, further delaying your chance to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Even in the unlikely scenario that “Life” goes exactly as you’d expected and the day finally comes when you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, will you be ready? Will you be okay with starting at the beginning? Or will you feel like it’s too late for you now?

What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for condiitons to be perfect and don’t expect it all to go smoothly. When you take on your dream you will encounter struggles, some external, many internal.

As I’ve been out promoting my book I’ve met people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

My response to them: Do it. Now. You absolutely can. Start writing.

Obstacles in your path

I used to get cranky because something always came up that stopped me from what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t realized that my biggest obstacles were the ones that came from me: fear, Resistance, lack of confidence (to name a few).

There will always be obstacles in your path.

The question is: will you step over them, go around them, ask for help in getting past them, or will you let them block your way? Will you continue to use those “reasons” for keeping you from doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Stop waiting. You can figure it out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect (in fact, it almost certainly won’t be!) but you have to start somewhere. (Read my blogpost Strive for progress not perfection for more on this point.)

Some tips to get you started:

  • Set small, incremental goals. Little by little adds up to a lot.
  • Have a cheerleader. You’ll need someone who can give you a pep talk when you’re doubting you can or should be doing what you’re doing. Even online groups or social media groups can help you through the rough patches.
  • Ignore the people who say you can’t. Or that you’re crazy or stupid or irresponsible for doing what you’re doing. You may actually agree with them on some level, but don’t let that stop you.
  • Life is a composite of what you do and how you spend your time. Keep your priorties in order even when you’re working toward fulfilling your dreams.
  • Fill as many “time leaks” as possible. It’s like when you’re trying to reduce your water or electricity usage, some sound advice is to repair all leaks. What are your “time leaks”? A little occasional mindless down-time isn’t a big deal, but pay attention and don’t let yourself get sucked into a “time waister vortex” so what you intended to last 10 minutes turns out to be two hours you’ll never get back. No bueno.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop waiting to do whatever it is you’ve “always wanted to do”. Get started now to make your dreams a reality. The world is waiting.

Think it’s too late for you? Check out this awesome woman who got around the obstacles in her way to finally do what she’s always wanted to do:

Why One Woman Decided To Become A Doctor At Age 59

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Have you ever had a project that you want to do and know you need to do, but for some reason you avoid doing it? Maybe it’s really important and you’re afraid you’ll mess it up, or you’re not 100% confident you know what you’re doing so you avoid it completely.

This is my account of one of those days written as it happened.

Today is Thursday.

The time is now 11:40 AM and I have not written a single word of my work in progress.

It’s getting late. I need to sit down and write my daily 1000 – 1500 words (first draft of new book, a sequel to A Song for Jessica). I can usually get it done in about an hour and a half, two at the most. Most days I’m done by 11 am.

But today I’ve felt distracted.

Usually, the idea of sitting down to write a scene or develop a character gets me out of bed in the morning. Seriously, I know how lucky I am that I get to to do this.

Today, instead of jumping out of bed ready to write, I lied in bed feeling sleepy until I remembered it’s my watering day (San Antonio Stage 1 water restrictions). I haven’t been very consistent about watering the grass and my yard’s looking downright dusty, so I had to get up.

Once I got the sprinkler and water height just right, I set the timer to remind me to move it to the next spot.

Put a load of laundry to wash.

Walked my dogs.

Moved the sprinkler.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

Water my potted vegetable plants that aren’t doing so well.

Moved the clothes.

Talked to my daughter on the phone for at least 20 mins.

Moved the sprinkler.

Wrote a few words, then deleted them.

Got on Social media, checked emails, read some articles on book marketing, made coffee, ate watermelon.

Folded clothes.

Turned the water off and put the sprinkler away.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

This is really not like me.

It’s like I’m avoiding sitting down to write as if I don’t want to do something I usually love. What’s wrong with me?

Because I’m an analytical person, it makes me wonder why I’m not doing what I know I need to do. I can think about that for another 30 minutes or hour, which will solve nothing.

So instead of writing my work in progress (my 2nd novel), which is my priority because I want to publish in December, I’m writing this blogpost about avoiding my work.

This avoidance doesn’t feel quite like procrastination. I’ve often …

(oh, hold on. Someone’s at the door.)

Okay, I’m just getting back to my desk. My niece stopped by to drop something off and we ended up talking for about 40 minutes. But that’s okay!

Focused conversation with a grown niece or nephew is a rare and special occurrence.

So, yes. It’s now nearly 12:30 and still not a word of my story written today.

I have a blogpost drafted. That’s something.

My yard’s watered. That’s something. A load of laundry’s done. That’s something. I talked to my daughter and she had a very productive day. That’s something. I got to visit with my niece. That’s something.

Those are all good and important things.

But I have work to do.

It doesn’t matter why I’m avoiding it or what I’m doing instead. What matters most, in this case, is that I’ve committed to tell a story. So tell it.

Okay. I’m ready.

Just do it.

When I finally settle in and get it done, I exceed my 1500 word goal. The scene is done and will need extensive editing, of course. But I can’t edit what’s not there, so writing the far from perfect first draft is a necessary step.

And I realized something interesting as I wrote.

The scene needed an important pivotal point in the plot that I wasn’t sure how I was going to work through. It made me wonder if that’s what I had been avoiding all morning.

But an idea developed as I worked, something I hadn’t planned. The scene may change, but it’s a starting point and that’s what I needed.

So, it’s nearly 3 PM and my work is done for the day. It wasn’t pretty, and it felt a little painful today, but it’s done.

That makes me smile.

It’s a good reminder:

A day when you’ve done your work, even when it was hard and even when you could have left it for tomorrow, is a good day.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. ~ Tanzanian proverb

A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

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

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

I had a day like that last week.

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

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

It was a beautiful break from the noise and chatter.

I happened to record a few seconds of it.

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

But, wow, did it make a difference.

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

Time well-spent

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

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

That’s time well-spent.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published

Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach

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

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on
The Colosseum in Rome

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

Then something unexpected happened.

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

You got it. Italy!

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

Having her there was a game-changer for me.

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

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

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on
My daughter and grand dog

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

What took me so long to do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on
The Vatican

Excuses, obstacles, and other reasons.

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Pixabay published on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of PxHere published on
Photo courtesy of PxHere

Do you have vision?

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

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

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel published on
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your goal? Your imagined idea?

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

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

Find a process that’s a good fit for you then take action

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 is a lot like that, 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.

Getting input from others is great, but there comes a time when you have to decide for yourself your plan of action. Ask yourself: What do you want, what will you do, and how will you do it? You have to decide come up with a plan of action.

But how do you decide?

If you ask five different people how to do something – write a book, lose weight, get in shape, plan a trip, find a new job – you’re bound to get five different answers. Some writers outline every scene before writing a single word. Others start writing with a simple idea. Do your research to help you find a process that works for you.

Do your research to help you find a process that might work for you.

One of the things I did when I started writing my novel and had committed to writing my novel was to look for people who had successfully navigated through the shaky period of getting started, who had been where I was. I wanted to learn from their experience. (See previous blogpost on Connecting with people who’ve been where you are

You know it’s possible, but it’s hard to know what that would look like if you’ve never done it.

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

Consider your starting point

If you want to start running but you have no idea what to do, you’ll need to find a program that starts with the basics. Or if you know you’ll have to start with walk-run intervals, find a training program that starts there.

Know yourself

Are you the type of person who learns by watching? A video might be the best resource for you. Do you prefer having a reference guide? Look for a book that gives you a step-by-step to follow.

If you’re the type of person who gets overwhelmed by lots of detailed and technical information, look for resources that seem to understand you want to incorporate this new thing (running, cooking, writing, etc.)

Maybe you like a more personalized approach. Look for a personal trainer or coach who can give you 1-1 attention and hold you accountable.

Tailor the process

In the training scenario, if you mix running days with cross-training days because otherwise you get bored and will nix the whole thing, then mix it up.

Or let’s say you’re getting tips from a friend about how to de-clutter your home. Some particular things she recommends or would day a particular way may not work for you because of circumstances, resources, tools, etc.

Adjust her recommendations to fit your needs instead of making excuses and saying, “Oh no. That’ll never work.”

There’s rarely a cookie cutter solution that works for everyone.

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on

Adjust accordingly

Be open to making adjustments if what you planned isn’t working like you thought it would. Remember that a little flexibility goes a long way. Stick with it and don’t give up.

When I say process, it really means the way you approach a task. It doesn’t happen all at once. We have to be patient and take it a little at a time. A baby doesn’t normally run before he can walk.

If we want to get stuff done it helps to be open to being patient, learning all we can, following the steps, and adjusting accordingly.

That’s the key to finding a process that works for you and that’ll help you stay on your path to success.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay commons published on

Time to Re-Shift and Re-Focus – Changes ahead

Have you ever felt like you’re on someone else’s path? Like you’ve bought tickets to a movie and gone into the dark theatre only to find out you’re in the wrong movie.

Wonderful. Now what do you do?

You have a choice:

  1. Stay where you are and watch a movie you didn’t intend to watch.
  2. Gather your things, and go look for where you belong.

For a while now, I’ve felt that way about this blog.

It’s taken me a while to realize I’m watching someone else’s movie.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

How it started

I started blogging to share a message: getting older doesn’t mean you have to stand by and watch your body fall apart, that staying active and eating nutritious food can help keep you strong and feeling good. I wanted to  encourage women to take care of themselves in body, mind, and spirit.

Mindset Monday started when I realized that a lot of what keeps us from staying healthy and taking care of ourselves is our attitude. We get bogged down in our own fear and negativity. So, to help people get started on the right track for the week and toward a more positive mindset, Mindset Monday was born.

And then I veered off track by making the message too broad as if I was writing for everyone instead of women who want to age well.

I thought I needed to get back to my original focus — To speak to women who struggle with aging and all that goes with that, encouraging women to age well, to embrace life’s changes, to find the joy in new roles, to help build each other up.

And I’ve tried doing that for the past few months.

But that doesn’t feel quite right either and I couldn’t quite figure out why and what to do about it.

After much deliberation, I think I finally understand the root cause of my difficulty:

I’ve tried to deliver a message that I think people want to hear rather than simply saying what’s on my heart and letting the message speak for itself.

It’s like not allowing yourself to answer a question because you’re trying to say what you think the other person wants to hear. It doesn’t work and it’s exhausting.

So, it’s time for a re-shift and re-focus.

For starters, due mostly to some admin issues, starting in May I’ll no longer be using

Instead, I’ll be transitioning from back to my original domain

Next, after much thought and deliberation, I’ve decided I’ll blog about my own story (I wanted to help women get healthy so I started a business, quit my school librarian job, but then realized what I really want to do is write so that’s what I’m doing.) and what I’m learning along the way. If you don’t know my story, you can read a more complete version here.

I hope you’ll find the stories interesting. And maybe some of what I learn can help you too.

If my story resonates with you and you still glean value from the message, I hope you continue reading.

My path isn’t crystal clear, but I’ll stick with it until I figure it out. For now, I’m planning on self-publishing my first novel, A Song for Jessica, in June 2018. You can read what it’s about here.

I have a few more steps before I get to that point so I’ll keep you posted. If any of it can encourage you on your journey then I’ll count it as a success.

So the Mindset Monday message for today is:

  • When you realize you’re on a different path than you intended, you have to make a choice to stay where you are or look for where you belong.
  • You may have to try different things before finding what’s just right, like Goldilocks.
  • Nothing worth doing is easy. There will still be struggles, but you can figure it out. Don’t give up. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay accessed via google commons published on

Make everyday better with an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude is a small and simple thing that can have a powerful effect on every moment of every day.

It can take you from grumbling about traffic to be thankful that you have a car, from being angry about something annoying thing your friend/spouse/relative did to feeling sincere joy that they’re part of your life.

Photo courtesy of Flickr accessed via Google commons published on

It’s like magic.

And even though gratitude works like magic, adopting an attitude of gratitude can take practice.

A few daily strategies to try are:

Write it out. Keep a gratitude journal. List 1 – 3 things/people/circumstances for which you are thankful.
Photo courtesy of published on strong-woman.comCount your blessings. Literally count 10 things you’re grateful for.

Be mindful. Bring to mind the people and things you’re grateful for when you feel frustrated, stressed, or anxious.

Give it a try. See what a difference it can make. And then keep doing it.

Do it for your own good.

It can be good for your health. (Read WebMd Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude)

It can be good for your wealth. (Read Being Grateful for what you have now could make you richer in the future on

Getting in the habit of bringing to mind, letting your loved ones know, and/or writing down the people and things for which you’re grateful puts them at the forefront of your mind. And that changes everything.

Have a grateful attitude especially when you feel anxious and discouraged. You’ll feel better about your day, better about your life.