But unfortunately, this was not the first tragedy we had tasted in recent months:
The accident occurred 5 months after my other sister’s son, baby Ryan, drowned in a pool in Florida and sustained severe brain damage, 14 months after Ryan’s father died in an equally sudden and tragic way.
Driving home from a concert, my mom called and told me to pull over. The denial washed over me like a series of unceasing waves. This can’t be happening again. This can’t be happening again. This can’t be happening again. I flew out to Florida and walked with my other sister and my father into the ICU ward in Tallahassee. For the third time, in not enough months, I saw someone I loved attached to so many monitors and apparatuses to appear almost unrecognizable. Susanne and I flanked Pam’s side as we held her hand and whispered, I love you, We’re here, I love you.
My mom flew in a few days later and stayed with Pam during her final week. I remember laying on the floor of Pam’s bedroom as my Mom told me she wasn’t going to come through this, that the doctors said we needed to let her go.
The weeks that followed are a blur, made even hazier by a doctor telling me I might have cancer. Yes. It was an unbelievably trying time. I do remember walking, crying, praying and hugging those that I hold most dear. I do remember the smell of freshly baked bread, the taste of steamed milk, and the small creases in my husband’s hands.
And then a few weeks ago, the fog began to clear. My mind began to restructure. I started to write again. I laughed at the way my cat licked my toes. I woke up and felt hopeful, not afraid. My walks became times of meditation and discovery. As much as I tried to fight this sentiment, all I could hear as I walked underneath the shade of tall Oaks was, “I love you. You’re safe. I love you. I’m here.”
And then a package arrived on my doorstep. A beautifully crafted book of recipes from so many of you who read my blog week after week. Kate and Liz, two women with hearts of gold, organized one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received. As I paged through recipe after recipe and read your words of encouragement and comfort, tears filled my eyes and I wept, not in sorrow but in joy.
I have been through immense suffering this year, but along with the pain has come equal measures of joy. The care and concern of so many of my friends, near and far, has sustained me in some of my darkest hours. My community, compiled of faces, beautiful and diverse, has stood in the gap again and again.
Today, many of these voices are sharing the recipes they sent to me. I can’t tell you how much your words touch me. The book will remain one of my greatest treasures.
Over the course of this next year, I’ll be making and sharing many of those special recipes. But today, I decided to share something simple and sweet of my own. These muffins can be made by the most novice or experienced baker. They fill your house with the smells of sugar and vanilla, chocolate and butter. They make your morning a little brighter, a little sweeter. I wish I could send everyone of you a muffin, a cake, a pie, a hug. Unfortunately, these pictures and this recipe is all that I can do. Please know that I’m a woman incredibly blessed. I love and thank you all.
Chocolate Chip Muffins
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder (make sure your baking powder is no older than 6 months)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate, but any will do…)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Toss the chocolate chips in the flour to prevent sinking and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy (about 2 minutes with an electric mixer). Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each one. Beat in the vanilla extract.
4. Beat in one third of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the yogurt. Beat in a third more of the dry ingredients. Beat in a second third of the yogurt. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining yogurt. Be careful to beat until just incorporated.Too much beating = very tough and squat muffins.
5 Using an icecream scoop or a very large spoon, distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set muffin pan on wire rack to cool. After 5 minutes, remove muffins from pan.
Makes 12 muffins. Best eaten fresh and warm.
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