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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

Loss is a funny thing. It really is one of those things that seems so completely separate from your own life until it’s all at once too relevant.

I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks, but this has made for some great reflection time. Four days before my twenty second birthday, I got the news that my dad’s mother, my mama, had passed away. She was 92 years old and pneumonia was her final, insurmountable struggle.

I spent the weekend of my twenty second birthday back home with family after a simple, but enjoyable birthday dinner. I was sad that weekend, but also happy because I was surrounded by loved ones, both friends and family, for three days straight. I got to see relatives I would never normally see, and we had a family reunion of sorts.

Four days after returning to Berkeley, I got the word of another tragic loss. One of my good friends and co-workers from SUPERB, Nick Castle, had gotten ill in China (where he was working with the Peace Corps) and suddenly passed away.

I spent this past weekend trying to cope with what this loss meant. It felt so different from the loss I had just experienced only a week before. Whereas my grandma’s death was sad, it lacked an element of tragedy. In fact, it was more characterized by triumph. At the funeral, all I could think about was how amazing it would be to live to 92 in as good of health as my grandmother, and how great it was that she didn’t miss out on becoming a great-grandmother this year for the first time.

Nick’s death felt, and still feels like the greatest of injustices. It took me a long time before I could even process what had happened, and after that, everything just felt tight and suffocating. My chest, my head—being in my own body felt uncomfortable.

But, I realized (after a pretty lengthy period), that’s the way life is. It’s entirely unfair. It’s silly and unreasonable that a brilliant 23-year-old have his life cut short, before he could achieve the greatness he was destined for. It’s silly that I’m sitting here, worrying about the pretty insignificant problem set I have to finish this weekend. But that’s the way life is.

In order to try to move past the negative that has sprung up in my life, I turned to one of the things I sometimes forget I enjoy doing—baking. Yeah, I know that sounds silly considering I have a food blog and everything, but it’s so easy to get caught up in everything else and I sometimes really do forget that baking can be just as therapeutic as swimming and yoga have become for me.

I chose to make a simple recipe, because I didn’t want to think or worry about the results too much, but this is “one of the best chocolate chip cookies” you will have had “at least in the past four years,” according to some of my friends. Simple and pure but amazing—I think these are good descriptors not only for the cookies, but for the two lovely people I, and the rest of the world, have lost.

I rounded out the weekend by going on a hike and spending time with friends who would eat my cookies. Jennifer sent me a box of goodies, which was much appreciated when I was feeling down (though I don’t encourage you eat your feelings!). I know that life can be good, and for the most part it is (especially considering the relatively small amount of loss I’ve had to deal with in my life), but in rough times, a bag of yogurt pretzels and a thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie can do wonders to lift your spirit.

Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Cooks Illustrated

  • 2 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled to warm
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 white sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment (or Silpats like the awesome ones pictured that Nicole got me for Christmas).
  2. Stir the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a whisk.
  3. Mix melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using scant 1/4 cup of the dough, form a ball. Grabbing the ball at the center, gently tear it in two halves. Rotate the halves so the jagged parts are both facing upward and jam the dough back together into a sort-of circle. Place dough on cookie sheets with the jagged side facing up.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool on racks. Pour a tall glass of milk & enjoy (preferably while watching TV with friends).

So anyway, sorry for the downer of a post, but this is my life right now. I’d also like to say that my thoughts are with Nick Castle’s family; I can’t even begin to imagine what this loss feels like to them.  His mom told me they’re not planning a memorial, but rather “a celebration of his life,” something I think is wonderful and very fitting for the cheerful guy Nick was.


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