Monthly Archives: November 2015

Begin With the Spirit

When I moved back to my hometown of San Diego from Chico, California, I left behind a tenured professorship. My kids lived with me and cost plenty. So I started teaching all around.

One semester, I was teaching 9 classes at 4 colleges, about 90 hours a week. My son Cody and I went to Tae Kwon Do classes twice a week. And I was managing Cody’s Little League team, hoping he might become a pitcher instead of a ninja. All this left me too weary to write, or so I thought.

Probably because I didn’t sleep enough, my emotions had shut down, and every day I sensed impending doom. Something had to change. My kids didn’t deserve a catatonic dad.

One late afternoon as I sat on the grass at the University of San Diego, overlooking the harbor and wondering how I could fix my emotions, I mumbled, “Okay, where should I start?”

Then I remembered advice Master Jeong, our Tae Kwon Do instructor, often gave. He told us, “Everything begins with the spirit. From the spirit come the thoughts. From the thoughts come the actions. From the actions come the habits. From the habits comes the character. And from the character comes the destiny.”

Stupefied by stress as I was, I sat a while wondering where on that continuum I should start trouble-shooting, until the obvious made itself clear.

Start with the spirit.

So, I thought, what could best set my spirit on the right path?

I believe it was God who sent the message: “Look here, you’re a writer. But for months you haven’t been writing, which has grieved your spirit into a coma. Sure, teaching nine classes and raising kids is hard, but it’s not going to kill you. What will kill you is not writing.”

The next morning, I got up at 5 a.m. instead of 5:30, which allowed me to write for a half hour. Not much, but enough to give me hope, which is the antidote to despair.

The stuff I wrote during those half-hour sessions became crucial parts of my novel The Loud Adios. About a month after the semester ended, I sent the manuscript to a national contest.

I won.

Which meant I earned enough so I didn’t need to teach as much and, after too many discouraging years, I would see a new novel of mine on bookstore shelves.

Which can be an inspiring sight.

By the way, need I remind you that the book or ebook Writing and the Spirit makes a swell Christmas gift?

Thanks A Lot, Donald Trump

My financial life story in a nutshell: I had a small sum in an IRA, earning no interest, so I decided to invest in something. I like Starbucks. Good coffee. A unique and sound business model. Shares at a price I can afford. So I bought ten of them. A day or so later, Donald Trump criticizes Starbuck’s taking Merry Christmas off their cups. My shares drop in value.

Now I will certainly not vote for Trump, not that I meant to anyway. Still, I wish him Merry Christmas. And for all who will miss reading “Merry Christmas” on a cup, I will provide something longer and more satisfying. By Christina Rosetti:

The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him?
I will give my heart.