Grandma, Randy, & ALS

I became passionate about baking when I was a little girl in Grandma’s kitchen, engulfed in the white haze that billowed up as she tossed another handful of flour into the standing mixer bowl. I loved to watch her, awed by the way she’d glance at the recipe card as though it was only a suggestion and then tossing it aside, begin to add the ingredients without a measuring cup or spoon in sight. Two heaping scoops plus a handful of sugar, chunks of chilled butter grabbed from the fridge, three eggs broken into a water glass before being dropped in the bowl, cups heaping with flour, a small shake of soda, a pinch or two of salt, and a drizzle of vanilla poured straight from the bottle. And all the while, as she tossed in the ingredients, and scooped the sweet dough onto parchment-covered baking sheets, she’d be patiently walking me through every step, explaining how cold butter made the dough fluffier and how parchment paper made the cookie bottoms golden brown. “The bottoms of the cookies should be just as pretty as the top,” she’d say, this woman whose cookies were so exquisitely shaped and flawlessly baked she could have served them upside down and no one would have been the wiser.

I became passionate about supporting the ALS Association when my brother Randy was diagnosed with ALS. In the Spring of 2009 Randy began to experience a weakness in one leg that eventually led to his diagnosis of ALS on October 15, 2009. While the average life expectancy for ALS patients following diagnosis is 2-5 years, my brother died within a year and a half on April 19, 2011. In those few months Randy lived with ALS he experienced loss after loss as the ALS progressed rapidly and savagely through his body. He lost the ability to walk and stand, to drive a car, to pull up his own pants, to get in and out of bed unaided, to breathe comfortably on his own, to eat, to drink, and to speak. By the time my brother died ALS had taken so much from him but it never touched one single measure of his brilliant mind, playful humor, compassionate heart, generous and kind spirit, or the love he had for others and the love that was returned to him from every direction. Even ALS has its limits.

But Randy was far more than his ALS. He was my big brother, the kind of big brother every sister wishes she could have. He was also my friend, my trustworthy confidante, my personal computer tech and electronics go to guy, and on more than a few occasions he served gallantly as my knight-in-shining-armor. Randy’s obituary tells more about his story and the kind of man he was.

Even while Randy was confronting the devastation of ALS in his life, he spoke often and with great compassion about others living with the same disease and rather than trying to put my brother’s thoughts into my own words I invite you to listen to the video below, taken in August 2010 when Randy was talking to family and friends on their participation in an upcoming Walk to Defeat ALS that’s held each October in Portland, Oregon.

Randy’s compassionate concern for others living with ALS spread throughout our family and many of us remain committed in different ways to helping ALS patients through our support of the Oregon – SW Washington Chapter of the ALS Association. This is why Sweet Hope Cookies began and why my three-fold purpose is:

1. To honor my brother Randy by continuing his legacy of compassion, generosity and caring toward others living with ALS.

2. To advance awareness and knowledge about ALS.

3. To provide support to those living with ALS and to advance medical research so that one day a cure for this relentless and merciless disease will be found. This is why I donate the materials and time so that 100% of your donation goes directly to the ALS Association.

. . . And to do it all through my love of baking for others that my Grandma passed on to me. Order some cookies and taste the love!