A book that won’t let me go

This month our book club read the dystopian masterpiece by Japanese born/British citizen Kazuo Ishiguro “Never Let me Go”. It, along with his first two novels  “An Artist of the Floating World” and “A Pale View of Hills” have been on my “must read” list for literally years (since its release in 2005.) I love the depth and breadth of his literary imagination and wanted to know all he had to offer, but like so many other things that I knew I would not only enjoy but would also be good for me, like learning to ride abike, or really swim laps, or grow my own organic vegetables, or make a seven-day backpacking trip, I never seemed to get around to it until outside forces motivated me.

I had even owned the book. The lovely green paperback kept migrating to my “read it now” shelf, but then some new shiny author would draw me into their back list with their tantalizing prose and I would forget the love affair I had with Ishiguru’s telling. Eventually I lent it to someone who had seen the movie and it disappeared into that place books without nameplates in them always seem to go. You know that place of not remembering exactly who it is lent it to, and them not remembering where they borrowed it from either. In all fairness I have two books like that on my shelf, books I know I did not purchase but do not know from whom they came.

Having “Never Let me Go” selected for August was the impetus to repurchase and finally read this literary sci-fi coming of age story. Told in the first person by one of the students of an unusual private school which was created as an ethical question as much as an answer, this book covers everything from disenfranchisement based on birth (particularly pertinent in the face of current class wars) to the meaning of mortality. In the stories climax I was reminded of the current “morality” wars as well, when those who deemed themselves worthy to ascertain the presence or absence of souls in other life forms or revealed to be the most soulless and self-serving.

This novel truly won’t let me go, my mind keeps returning to the story and its author and how he elegantly tells in the fictional lives of three young students all the horror and redemption humanity is capable of committing.

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, his family moved to England when he was 6 years old. The cultural questions of both homes are reflected in this novel. One’s family could not be from Nagasaki in the 1950’s and not be gravely aware of how ethics are forgotten in the pursuit of  “greater good”; and England in the 1960’s was suffering the culmination of the Post-war class crisis as well as a wholesale abandonment of religion. Much was being made of  the “winds of change” freeing women, empowering the poor, allowing the working classes to get their own piece of the pie. The “Work hard, do what you are told and you will be aptly rewarded ” ethos began to crumble under a new bottom line, and then its inspired social programs all fell apart as violent student protests and numerous race riots turned the tide again, reimposing stringent class lines  based now more on new money than old blood. In this century, the use of sweatshop labour in non-English countries to let western consumers “have it all”; the destruction and raping of natural resources in third world countries so growth can continuously be supported are easily analogous to the organs being cut from the “donors” until they complete.

In the tradition of other great authors of fictional social commentary such as Swift, Twain or Orwell, Ishiguro uses an engaging story to (hopefully) awaken the reader to look at life and their own choices just a little differently. As for me, I will get to his other books sooner now, and probably reread his later ones as well.

I am glad that another “meant to” has become an “I have.” I do swim and bike now, ate my first “homegrown in Arizona” organic vegetables this summer, have new seedlings ready to plant and will begin backpack daytrips as soon as it cools down a bit here.  As this book reminds me, we all “complete,” so I will continue to carpe my diem, and as I run and bike and dig in the soil today I know bits of this book will come floating back to my consciousness again with some new resonance, for this is truly a book that will “Never Let me Go.”


A work in process, wheat and corn free vegan coffee cake, and two places everyone should shop at least once!

Take 1 cup brown rice farina or whole grain Teff and stir it into a mixture of  1 and 1/4 cups vanilla soy or rice milk, 1 tsp vanilla and

****     1/2 cup coconut oil (if you substitute vegan margerine sticks DO NOT add this or add here) ****

Combine thouroughly 1 and 1/4 cup White Rice flour, 1/2 cup Tapioca Flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 1 cup organic granulated sugar, 1 TBSP Baking Powder, 2 tsp. Xnathum Gum. ( ****If using stick margerine instead of coconut oil here is where you cut the margarine into the flour mixture until it is in pea size pieces.****)  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Grease a 8 or 9 inch square pan, and smooth half the batter in the pan,

Combine 1/2 cup organic brown sugar, 1/2 cup pecans, 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and disperse evenly across the batter. Now  smooth the second half of the batter across the nut filling and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

I am very happy with the flavor, but still working on the texture, Texture is the greatest challenge when working gluten free or when working vegan, but I am happy to say that science and the willingness to fail (and my roommate’s, my own and sometimes my dogs willingness to be guinea pigs during the process) means that success is always just one more bake away…..

This is an adaptation of a recipe I got off the back of a Bob’s Mill rice farina package a couple years ago that I made vegan. I love Bob’s Mill products because I can have my delicious comfort carbs and get my needed nutrition too by switching out  bleached white flour whit a plethora of naturally high protein, calcium rich grains (http://www.bobsredmill.com/flours-meals/) . I llike this company’s politics and policies, too. I am lucky enough to have a local farmer’s market that carries most of the flours I need regularly which means I get to support the local economy while eating better(http://www.powerroadfarmersmarket.com/).
If you don’t live in the East Valley of the Phoenix, AZ area you can order from them as well, plus there are awesome recipes. When I use a recipe verbatim I won’t post it here, but I do use their recipes faithfully and  I am always tweaking what I bake.  Another reason I love the Bob’s Mill site is sometimes I will have just so much of a particular flour left, and not the others I bought for a particular mix or recipe and wonder what I want to do with it, I can search their sight and find new recipes for that particular flour. It’s absolutely lovely! So those living in the furnace with me, wander on over to Power Road and pick up a package of some new untried flour as well as some fresh and tasty local produce and go home and start your own delicious experiments. My long distance readers can check out Bob’s Red Mill website and either try the store locator or have it shipped right to your door.
Iif you do I predict delicious healthier baked goods are in your future, soon!


Yes, Virginia, I still believe in Santa Claus: A Birthday inspired restatement of purpose.

“He exists as certainly as love and devotion and generosity, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” Frances Pharcellus Church in the most reprinted editorial ever from Sept 21, 1987 edition of  the New York Sun.

I do believe in Santa Clause, and fairies and heroes.

I believe in the basic “goodness” of others, sometimes I even believe in the basic goodness of myself.  There is no belief involved, but sure sound knowledge, that as I focus outward and am more concerned with what I can give than what I can get, I am happiest. Fear is made up of False evidence appearing real, Ego run rampant, Avarice instead of gratitude, and Resentment. I do not choose to live in fear. Today I would rather live on faith, for all impossibilities there’s hope.

Faith has done right by me and my life is made up of many miracles, some small some large.

I also know that when my life is spent balancing good health and a quick mind on the point of spirit (meaning equal time spent developing all three) that I am healthiest and most productive. To only feed the mind and spirit and not care for the body with healthy foods and exercise  leads to fatigue, weak muscles, aches and pains….basically being fat and lazy. To care for the body and feed the mind but neglect the spirit leads to disillusionment, jaded perceptions, then anger and bitterness or hopelessness and despair. To practice a spiritual path and care for the body but neglect the mind and only feed it the junk food of novels, television and pop culture creates a person without the ability think for themselves, an individual without purpose, led easily by Big Brother. We are what we “eat”, and that includes all the ways we consume and digest, mentally, physically and spiritually. I have tried all forms of imbalance in my life, and fallen flat on my face each time as surely as I would plopping on a 3-legged stool with one cracked leg.

Today, I choose to challenge my mind with new tasks daily. Now when I still had children at home, just keeping up with them and figuring out how to provide for us and maybe create a little structure with the house and food pretty much covered the nimble mind bit, but now I do it through Netflix’ing documentaries; playing word games; reading math and science nonfiction works that stretch my understanding; reading the Weekly Christian Science Monitor (don’t let the “Christian” in the title fool you, it is THE most unbiased writing on this side of the ocean), National Geographic and Mental Floss; listening to classics, rock concept albums, jazz, BBC world news and audio books in my car instead of the latest pop music. I must learn five new things a day, sometimes that just means a new skill for an old talent, like how to knit cables finally or socks that match. Doesn’t mean I don’t do the pop culture things as well, I love “Big Bang Theory” and “Community”, Debbi Macomber novels, Adele, and “People” magazine (I read it in the checkout line!), I just balance the “junk food” in with real mental nourishment to keep me sharp and growing.

I nourish my spirit by meditating daily.  One third of  my reading choices are picked to provide nourishment for my soul. I actively seek out opportunities to do random acts of kindness. I review my day and keep a gratitude journal, and now as a new assignment I will also be writing five times during the day I showed good judgement, compassion or discipline. Today I also build my spirit by blogging, journaling and reading other peoples blogs, by setting goals and thinking before making choices to see if they reflect my goals, and sometimes by making the uncomfortable choices or voicing the unpopular opinion.  I do not want to be a part of the banality of evil observed by Hannah Arendt. “It’s easy enough to judge soldiers at Abu Ghraib or bystanders during WW II who failed to find their courage when unconscionable things were happening before their eyes. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge or even realize how often we avoid making uncomfortable choices in the course of our daily lives by attributing the small injustices that momentarily grate at our consciences to the system, or the circumstances, or our superiors. Or how rarely we bother to ask what role our own passivity and acquiescence may play in enabling unconscionable things to be done in our name.” an excerpt from “Beautiful Souls” be Eyal Press.

Keeping my body healthy, well that’s pretty easy when I really DO want to do more triathlons; in fact keeping the outside healthy is a popular theme in our society, it’s the inside we are encouraged to neglect,  because mindless drones separated from conscience are easy to enslave and rule.

Yup, reality is that we are a heavily classed society in a world riddled with an addiction to cruelty, violence and immediate gratification of whims. It is also true that many of the people with the money and power seek only to maintain their own aspirations for more and we without bread are told if we are good and serve well then we get to eat their leftover cake.

But you know what, I look at the bigger picture and I change the world a little bit each day when I change me. That which I give energy to grows stronger, and I do believe in Santa Clause and all he represents.

I do not expect my mission statement will look like others or that the tasks that balance me will mirror other’s tasks, but I do know from observation that when an individual neglects the inside for the outside, or the outside for the inside that they are unhappy and unhealthy. I also know from observation that those who balance care of their mind and body on a practice of compassion (spirit) seem to bounce back happy from even the heaviest wave of trouble.

So there you have it. That is my mission statement for the next half of my life written on my 50+ birthday, OK started on my birthday but finished and posted a couple days later, I plan to continue believing in Santa Clause, dancing with fairies and daily prepping for the time I am needed to be a hero.

What’s your mission statement?


Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you, when you think everything’s OK…

So the lack of posts may continue for another day or two.  Change has been happening this week at breakneck speed, life has been handing me loss after loss. It started with the news of  Hoodlum’s closing Aug 14 and just continues with opportunity after opportunity to breathe and meditate. Of course the challenges and losses have been evenly interspersed with some amazing moments like dinner and a movie with old friends, making a new friend, and a perfect bit of serendipity in the form of an old french cookbook.  The light spots and love, along with knowing I at least have a job I love and a roof over my head have held me together.

Going to sleep tonight knowing I still have amazing friends and a job I love.

I really will get back to recipes, reading recommendations, music and my attempts at gardening, wisdom and triathlon training but first I need to absorb a few life changes.

Deeply apologize for the absence, but I am rendered momentarily speechless, and yes, the wordiness of my silence continues the irony.