This is a year of change for me. Change is good, and sometimes it hurts -- a lot! In late February, I lost a dear friend and mentor to cancer, John Yaldezian. John led a full life, and although he suffered in his last weeks, his time on this earth was well spent, and he was well loved and respected by his large family, his extended family, and his many friends.
Over the next several months, I traveled to my family's ancestral home of Dickranagert (eastern Turkey), I was diagnosed with cancer, I became a judge, and I started chemotherapy after three lumpectomies.
Not enough for a year? Nope, not for this kid.
In this past week, I turned 60 years old, and I lost to an assassin one of my dearest friends, a professional colleague, and personal mentor Jeff Tidus. What chemo hasn't killed in my poor body, this tragic event has. I'm told adversity in life makes one stronger -- my faith in that advice is truly being tested as I will my already beaten body into submission, and continue my fight against the invader, as Jeff would have wanted me to.
But, it isn't easy to combat grief, and cancer, at the same time. I draw on strength I never knew I had ... thanks to my late grandmother's fortitude, the support of my family and friends, and the knowledge that Jeff would have wanted it that way. I grieve for his family, who was his life. God has a plan ... I just wish I knew what His plan was.
Shortly after I wrote my last blog, I received an email from Jeff -- his response to my latest post was "You are my hero. I admire your courage and your strength."
Ditto back ... for the past 11 1/2 years, Jeff mentored me through the start of my own private practice, my mediation/arbitration work, my development of skills as a good lawyer, and, right up to the day before he died, my battle with cancer and my new job as an administrative law judge. We were each other's heroes ... Rest in peace, my friend.
As I approach chemotherapy treatment #5, I revel in the fact that I have gotten through the first four in relatively decent shape. No hair, fingernails may fall out, tired as one can get -- but, I'm still kicking!
My acupuncturists tells me that I look better than a lot of her patients going through similar treatment. My blood levels are decent (thanks to shots of Neulasta, and Iron supplements), my energy not so decent, but I'm getting by, and I will be done with this toxic invasion in another month. Lots of supplements, lots of rest, no exercise (not so good), and eating whatever tastes decent. I'm lucky to have cousins and friends who cook healthy food for me -- my desire for cooking is taking a vacation during all of this.
It's cold out there, and my head is freezing! So, when will my hair grow back? Have I been a good girl, Santa? Can I have a real head of hair as a Christmas present? Yeah, I know -- next year. OK.
Over the past month, and two more treatments down, I made 60 pounds of Adi's famous fudge, with the help of cousins Sandy and Susan. Definitely "back-breaking" work -- something Sandy learned when she found out a day later that a fall from a ladder the day before had broken her vertebrae and foot!
I finished most of my training as an ALJ, and am nervously awaiting the day when I will be thrown out to the wolves and have to do my first mediation and hearings in Special Education. I'm over the hump, and heading toward the first finish line.
On February 3, I will have a double mastectomy and reconstruction, and recuperate for 7 weeks. Then, I'll hopefully start hearings at work and moving on toward the next surgery in May, and eventually a full recovery in the Fall.
So, what have I learned so far? It's all about a positive attitude. That's not a cliche -- it's true. One can either revel in one's misery, and feel lousy all the time, or pick oneself up and just keep moving along. Tomorrow will happen whether I plan for it or not (except when some sicko decides it's time to snuff out the candle). If it comes, then I'll deal with it. If not, then today I lived the best day I could have lived. Seeing how quickly one life can so easily be ended, I realize that each day has to be lived to the best and fullest -- without regret.
So, enough with morbidity! Here are a few recipes that will help you get through the holidays and feel like a gourmet chef!
ADI’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes about 32 cookies
Ingredients: (this can easily be doubled – use a 4 quart saucepan)
2 cubes unsalted butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temp)
1 T vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour (or substitute 1 cup oatmeal)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp iodized salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups chocolate chips or to taste
1 cup unsalted toasted almonds
½ cup toasted chopped pecans (available at TJ’s)
½ cup currants
Melt butter over low heat in a 4 quart saucepan. Add both sugars and stir until dissolved and carmel-like. Remove from heat and carefully add eggs one at a time, stirring to insure that you don’t cook the eggs. Add vanilla.
Put dry ingredients into a sifter and sift into the sugar/butter/egg mixture – or use a mesh strainer (or mix salt/soda/cinnamon with some of the flour to insure it is blended). Mix until moistened. Make sure the batter is cool to touch. Add the nuts, chips and currants. Mix.
Refrigerate the batter in a bowl or plastic container overnight. Remove and let soften slightly. Scoop into small balls, place on parchment paper and bake at 375° for about 11-12 minutes. Don’t let them get too dark – they should be lightly golden but still soft looking. Remove paper onto cooling rack.
Batter can be frozen – either in a lump, or after making into small individual balls and flash freezing. ENJOY!
1 pint cottage cheese
1 lb Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 7-oz can chopped chilies (ortega)
½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
canola spray, or 2-3 Tbsp butter
Melt the butter in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole and coat bottom and sides. Or, spray with vegetable spray. The butter browns the bottom and sides better than the spray.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix. Pour into the pan. Chill overnight so flavors will blend. Remove about 1 hour before baking. Heat oven to 350°. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until the eggs are set and the casserole is golden brown.
This can sit in the oven for 15-30 minutes with the temperature off and it will be fine.
You can make this with low fat cottage cheese and 2 percent jack cheese. It is a little runnier and not quite as rich, and you may have to increase the flour slightly. I sometimes add additional chilies for a stronger flavor. Personally, I prefer it exactly the way the recipe is written.
This recipe serves 10-12 people. It can be increased to 1 ½ times for a 4 quart casserole. It will serve 20-22 people if you have other brunch items also. Or you can decrease by ½ and put in a nine inch square casserole for 4-6 people.