The Book – An Introduction

I’ve been in one of my Hemingway periods (long bouts of thinking followed by short bursts of writing) and find work on The Book slow as a consequence. To that end I promised myself three hours of today of proper pen-to-paper writing.

For me, the following rough-cut excerpt is the closest I’ve yet come to saying what I want to say. What do you think? If this was the introduction would you keep reading?

Each story you are about to read hinges on this simple truth: extraordinary people become who they are by fixing their eyes on a goal and moving towards it. That’s it.

Their magnificent, heart-warming, inspiring stories are possible because they are doers. There is no magic formula, no prerequisite, no mystery to their success. They simply set out to do something, to live a certain way, and the act of doing it was the sole precondition for their success.

Along the way each of them developed the skills, knowledge, and beliefs that sustain them and help them progress, but those only followed the first, the essential thing: action.

They have lives like Goldberg Devices – fantastic contraptions that no one else would have dreamed up, with outcomes decided by a single motion transferred through weird and wonderful mechanisms. Unexpected twists, peculiar levers and unnamed bits of machinery that come together to propel their lives forward.

They stopped waiting for the perfect moment, the clear-cut path, the secure position, the external affirmation. They decided: this is what I’m going to do, and did it, without guarantee or assurance.

Once they took that step, things happened. They found ideas, courage, inspiration, experience, friendships and knowledge that became part of their progress. As they moved forward, each step revealed the next. They gained momentum. They achieved their goals. They created news lives and saw the world through new eyes.

They discovered that those who do, can.

What matters isn’t what you have or know; where you live or how much you earn. What matters is what you are willing to do. As you’ll discover, anything is possible. You can conquer illness, climb mountains, unite a nation, change your career or save a child’s life. You can become an artist, an explorer, an athlete, a hero. You can live the life you’ve always dreamed of – if you will.

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One Revolution at a Time – Family On Bikes

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is the matriarch of the Family on Bikes. She and her husband John have cycled over 27,000 miles with their twin sons Davy and Daryl. She kindly agreed to be interviewed for The Book and, over the course of many conversations, shared her family’s story with wit, wisdom, grace, confidence and goodwill. Nancy is an extraordinary woman disguised as a bead-work-loving Boise soccer mom but – as she’ll be the first to say – her secret is that there is no secret. There was no single magic moment that transformed her settled life into a non-stop adventure. It was a choice, a choice she had to make daily, hourly, sometimes with every turn of the peddle. This excerpt describes the distinctly non-triumphal beginning of the Family on Bikes saga:

Nancy Sathre-Vogel looked at her husband and thought, “The man’s nuts.” After nearly fifteen years of marriage she knew John as well as one person can know another, but she was shocked by his suggestion. “No way,” she said. “That’s not what parents do.”

Then Nancy waited. Like John, she is a teacher and she understood that some days are rotten to the core. Kids act up, lesson plans fall flat, administrators climb on your back, parents get in your face. Sometimes you’d do anything to never have to walk into another classroom. If John’s fantasy of hitting the road on bicycles, eight-year-old twin sons in tow, helped get him through the day, fine. After a few days of grumbling the castles in the air would gently deflate, returning his feet to Idaho soil. So she waited.

Days went by and John carried on talking about his plan as if it was sane. Davy and Daryl could ride with him on a bike built for three. All Nancy to do was come along. They had the experience. For heaven’s sake, they met because of cycling. Why not travel with the boys?

Nancy let it wash past her. John wasn’t looking at things in context. Long-distance cycle touring was fine when they were a carefree young couple but now they were mom and dad. “That’s not what parents do,” she reminded him. Parents put their kids on the school bus, go to work, and do the soccer run. They do things for their children, not with their children. Travel, adventure and spontaneity were part of their old life. It was time to grow up, to move on, and to do what was best for Davy and Daryl.

Pity The Rich

One beautiful thing about a long commute is having time to read. This week’s early-morning train companion was Mrs. Astor Regrets. I randomly picked it off the shelf at Powell’s a couple of months ago knowing nothing about the Astors apart from the name. Now I do, I don’t envy them their millions. There doesn’t seem to be much joy in being that kind of rich, even with the sweetener of fabulous jewels and $25,000 worth of couture every season.

Engrossing, fast-paced, fiercely human story, though, and a delicious chance to peek into a bygone world of American aristocracy.

Kurt Vonnegut on Creativity

The quote below is an excerpt from A Man Without A Country — a diamond of a book by the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut. To be as wise, incensed and articulate as Vonnegut is here (age 83) is surely one definition of success.

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Christmas Recipe – Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Mark Reinfeld


I’m delighted to have a guest post from award-winning vegan chef Mark Reinfeld, of Vegan Fusion. A culinary wizard, Mark picked up a love of food from his grandfather who was a chef and ice carver. He has co-authored more books than you can shake a carrot at, including the lauded, best-seller Vegan Fusion World Cuisine, and runs vegan cooking courses around the world. He doesn’t know that hummus is one of my favourite foods but, serendipitously, that’s the recipe he shared. Yum.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
2 red bell peppers (1 cup roasted)
3 cups cooked and drained well chickpeas
3/4 cup tahini, roasted (creamy)
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
3 Tbl wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp cumin powder, toasted
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
3/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
3/4 tsp black pepper, ground to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder, optional

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F/205C. Roast bell peppers
2. Place peppers in food processor with lemon juice, soy sauce, tamari and olive oil and process until well blended
3. Add garbanzo beans and remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Variations
Replace red pepper with one of the following:
Garlic Lover’s – 1 1/2 cups roasted garlic, 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic.
Sun-dried Tomato Basil – 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked & drained, 2 Tbl basil, minced.
Kalamata Rosemary – 1 1/2 Tbl fresh rosemary, minced, 3/4 cup Calamata olives, chopped.
Caramelized onions – add 1 cup caramelized onions before pureeing

Courtesy Vegan Fusion World Cuisine