Spinach & Basil Pesto

3 Comments

2015-05-17 10.22.15

love pesto. It’s so versatile and easy to add to meat, vegetable, pasta, and zoodle dishes. My pesto is vegan and nut free and quite delicious, if I do say so myself. I don’t miss the cheese or the nuts. If you can tolerate goat or sheep’s milk cheese though, goat parm goes very well with this recipe.

When I make it, I make big batches of it to keep in the freezer.

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Having it ready to go in serving size baggies makes it easy to whip up a quick dinner that would normally be laborious if you waited until dinner time to make the pesto.

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I fill small zipper bags with 1/4 Cup servings, roll them up, place them in a bigger bag and pop them in the freezer.

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When I’m ready to use one, I place a baggie in a bowl of warm water while I’m preparing the other dinner ingredients. When it’s defrosted, I snip the bottom corner of the bag and squeeze out the pesto into whatever dish I’m making. Fast, no mess, and a simple way to add a lot of flavor to a wide variety of meals.

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Vegan Spinach & Basil Pesto

*Makes about 3 Cups

10 Cups of Organic Baby Spinach (don’t worry about the stems)

1/4 Cup of Fresh Organic Oregano, packed

3 Four Ounce Packages of Organic Basil (or basil from your garden)

8 Cloves of Organic Garlic, peeled

1 1/2 Cups of Organic Olive Oil

Juice of 1/2 of a Small Organic Lemon

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

You may have to do the pesto in two batches depending on the size of your food processor. I slowly break down all of the greens first, scraping down the sides, before I add any of the other ingredients. This way, I don’t have to worry about making two separate batches. Once all the greens are purified, add the garlic and turn the processor on high. Slowly begin to drizzle the olive oil into the greens and mix until smooth. Add the juice and salt and continue to mix until you reach the pesto texture you like.

A little goes a long way. I find it much more economical to freeze it in small batches rather than large because often, a portion of the larger batches ends up going to waste.

Grain Free & Dairy Free Chocolate Pancakes

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It is possible to indulge in your favorite things even when you are focusing on being grain and dairy free. It’s not necessary for you to suffer and think that you’ll never be able to eat anything fabulous and naughty ever again.

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I mean seriously. Does this look like I suffered at breakfast this morning?

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I certainly did not and you don’t have to either. These are easy to make and incredibly delicious. The whole family will love them and absolutely no one will even notice that they are free of grains and dairy and made with coconut sugar.

You can top them with anything you like. I’m a dairy free butter & pure maple syrup kind of girl, but powdered sugar and chocolate chips, and even peanut butter go quite well.

Bacon provides the perfect salty side.

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Grain Free & Dairy Free Chocolate Pancakes

*Makes 12 medium to large pancakes

2 Organic Eggs, Separated

3 1/2 Cups of Organic Full Fat Coconut Milk (or milk of choice)

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup of Organic Buckwheat Groat Flour (Ground Groats)

1/2 Cup of Organic Coconut Flour

1/2 Cup of Organic Arrowroot Flour

3/4 Cup of Organic Cocoa Powder

1 teaspoon of Double Acting Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 teaspoon of Organic Coconut Crystals

1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt

Separate the eggs and beat egg whites to stiff peak. Set aside. Whisk the buckwheat, coconut flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium sized bowl. Add the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Carefully fold in egg whites.

Heat a griddle on medium and oil. I used bacon fat but you can use avocado oil or coconut oil also. Spoon batter onto hot griddle and cook for 4 minutes or until bubbly on top. Flip and cook for about 3 minutes.

Korobuta Ham Asparagus Scramble & A Small Thyroid Lesson

8 Comments

2015-05-15 08.13.01

I really prefer to wake up and start the day with a vegetable, protein, and fruit smoothie. I think it’s a fantastic way to pack a lot of nutrients into a really easy meal and it’s a great way to start my day off right away with a lot of anti-inflammatory foods.  However, after getting my lab test results and hearing that my thyroid antibodies are out of range, I’m having to switch it up a bit. At this point, all of my other thyroid numbers are optimal, so rather than treat with medication, we’re going to keep an eye on it.

After a bit of research I came across some interesting information. Evidently, there’s a whole list of vegetables that interfere with your thyroid when eaten raw on a regular basis.

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These are called Goitrogen foods. “Most goitrogens are naturally-occurring chemicals that are ingested in foods or drugs. These chemicals can interfere with thyroid function in different ways. Some compounds induce antibodies that cross-react with the thyroid gland; others interfere with thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme responsible for adding iodine during production of thyroid hormones. Either way, the thyroid isn’t able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.” – Marcelle Pick OB GYN/NP

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The good news is that you can still enjoy these foods. Dr. Pick says you can steam, cook, or ferment the Goitrogen foods to decrease the compounds. Then, make sure you’re rotating these foods in your diet so you’re not eating a lot of one type daily.

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 My plan is to steam spinach and kale, puree it, and then freeze it in smoothie portions, being mindful not to add it to my smoothies every day.

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Below is a list of Goitrogenic foods from Paleohacks.com, and at the bottom I’ve listed some websites for you for further reading and research.

Top 11 Goitrogenic Foods

  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard and Mustard greens
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Soy (anything)
  • Turnips

Foods with Smaller Amounts of Goitrogens

  • Bamboo shoots
  • Millet
  • Peaches
  • Peanuts
  • Pears
  • Pine Nuts
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Wheat and other gluten-containing grains

Thyroid issues are nothing to mess around with. And as you already know, I am a big proponent of helping heal the body naturally whenever possible. If you have thyroid issues, or your antibody numbers are out of whack like mine, it may very well make all the difference simply by changing your diet.

Thyroid Antibody Test -What is it? 

Hashimoto’s – Your body is destroying itself

Easing Out Of Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) 

10 Foods To Heal Hypothyroidism

12 Facts On Healing Your Thyroid Every Tired Person Should Know

13 Ways To Treat Hypothyroidism Naturally

2015-05-15 07.56.36

Cole’s Fine Foods ~ Gluten Free Bakery & Cafe

4 Comments

2015-05-04 11.18.17

Mom and I are thoroughly enjoying her retirement. We both like to lollygag around when we’re out running errands to see what’s new or see what we’ve missed when life used to be in a hurry.  Monday I had a follow-up with my doctor and we remembered there’s a new gluten-free bakery near there we wanted to check out that we missed after my last appointment. I almost drove right by it but mom said, “Hey! There’s that bakery, let’s stop and take a look!”

Being a fellow professional look-see lollygagger, I was all for it.

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Cole’s Fine Foods is tucked into a pretty busy area with doctor’s buildings and strip malls. Easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. And I can tell you after sampling several of her items, you’ll regret it if you don’t make the time to find it. Cole’s has a lovely set up. Very open and inviting with their baking mixes, granola, and breads on display. In fact, the bread that was on display, was still warm from the oven!

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At the counter you’ll find all of their pastries and goodies. The bakery is a completely gluten-free facility, as the owner has Celiac. I was incredibly pleased to hear that many of her items are also dairy free and on occasion, she bakes Paleo items. Cole’s also does baked goods for Huckleberry’s.

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An assortment of cupcakes and truffles. The pink frosted cupcakes were also dairy free that day as were the lemon bars and a few other items.

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This sweet gal came out to show us the Mother’s Day cakes they’re working on. They take great pride in their work and ability to provide great, gluten-free food. And rightly so! Cole’s is family owned and it shows. I love that they have a Mission & Values menu on their website.

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Cole’s has a wide variety of delicious items to choose from and the owner and staff are friendly, generous with information, and generous with samples. They sell (all gluten-free) cakes, pastries, cookies, breads and rolls, baking mixes, granola, home made cheese balls and crackers, lasagna, casseroles, soups and salads, mac and cheese…ALL made from scratch and whenever possible use Non-GMO and organic ingredients.

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Mom and I sampled the herb baguette, the sandwich bread, the granola, and angel food cake. It was all excellent!

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Honestly, we could have purchased one of everything and been content. Sadly, I knew I had to practice some form of self-control so mom and I settled on a loaf of fresh bread, the herb baguette, two cupcakes, and a bag of the granola. I would say that their prices are reasonable considering. We all know baking gluten-free, dairy free, non GMO, and organic is not an inexpensive adventure whether you’re baking at home or purchasing it from someone else.

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I couldn’t wait to get home to taste test again, take photos, and get my husband’s opinion. You may ask, “Why are you so excited over a gluten-free bakery?” I get excited about things like this because all gluten-free bakeries are not created equal. It is RARE that you find a bakery dedicated to being completely gluten-free, very rare. And it’s even more rare to find one with so many dairy free options. A gluten-free bakery is all well and good, but if you have multiple food allergies like most people with gluten allergens do or you’re Celiac and can’t eat in a contaminated facility, what good will it do you? It would be tough to cover all the food allergies of course, but Cole’s has gone above and beyond the norm to please their customers. And although they didn’t have any Paleo items that day, the fact that they offer them gets another two thumbs up.

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Her granola is dangerous. I mean seriously, I’m not supposed to be eating grains but I made an exception for that day by sampling all of the goodies I brought home for Tony. I’m going to have to send the granola out of town with him because it’s that good. Every time I open the pantry I have visions of a bowl (or several) with very cold almond milk. Mmmmm…. it’s torture. All of the seeds and nuts are sprouted (activated) and light and crispy. Her granola mix is 50% oat mixture to 50% nuts and seeds. I think it would be fantastic as gifts in baskets, stockings, or something fun and delicious to mail to friends and relatives.

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The breads had such a fantastic texture and flavor. Moist, not too heavy, great bounce back, yeasty flavor, and no strange slippery consistency when you swallow like so many gluten-free breads. Hands down, they were the best gluten-free breads I have ever tasted. Heads and tails over the ever popular Udi’s brand bread that we all dread but are basically forced to buy if we want a sandwich. Until now.

The bread was still warm when I got it home to sample it.

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Look at that…no cavernous holes that leave you with just crust for a sandwich like you often find in Udi’s bread.

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Impressive bounce back. No cracking. And even after it cooled completely and we made tunafish sandwiches, it still had the same texture and bounce back.

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The cupcakes we chose were like frosted pound cakes. Heavenly! I controlled myself and only ate half and left the other half for Tony.

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Tony sampled everything and also happily gave it all two thumbs up.

Please be sure to visit Cole’s. Not only because you’ll be missing out on a delicious and impressive experience if you don’t, but because it is family owned and they clearly take a great amount of pride in their work. Cole’s gets a resounding 10 from Gluten Free Zen and I look forward to sampling more items in the future.

Cole’s Fine Foods

Open 10:00 to 7:00 Monday thru Friday, Saturday 10:00 to 5:00

521 E. Holland, Suite 20, Spokane, WA 99218

You can order by phone at 509-413-1739 and you can find them online at:

www.colesfinefoods.com

www.facebook.com/colesfinefoods

or 

colesfinefoods @outlook.com

Grilled Lunch & Garden Therapy

8 Comments

2015-05-01 12.24.37

When I hear someone say they “hate” to garden, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I have to seriously question whether we are going to be able to be friends.

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What’s next…they’re going to tell me they don’t like to read either? Or they hate the sun? Or kittens and puppies are ugly? Chocolate is bad for you? Massages are horrible?

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But seriously, in my world, gardening is a privilege, a blessing, and an inexpensive form of mental health therapy that keeps my head from exploding and reminds me there is so much beauty to experience even right in my own back yard.

High tech gardening tool.

High tech gardening tool.

My mom is retired now and is really embracing gardening since she has some free time on her hands. We’ve been out and about searching for flowers for our yards, containers, and window boxes, picking up little items here and there.

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 We both get equally excited over an interesting plant or flower we’ve never seen.

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My Grandma, my mother’s mom, was an amazing gardener. Some of my fondest memories are of her garden or me stopping by and finding her digging in her garden with a big floppy sun hat. I can still smell and feel her garden when I think about it. So many gorgeous flowers and neat little surprises tucked here and there.

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Surprises that people who “hate” gardening would never notice or appreciate, sadly. My heart aches for them. Picking fresh vegetables out of her garden and eating them right on the spot and snacking on raspberries off of her bushes was a true treat.

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I was never ever told “no” if I wanted to pick something or discouraged from digging or poking around. And to this day, I have never been able to find a plum or apricot that tasted like the ones on her trees. Just being in her garden was a pure blessing in itself.

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The house we’re in now doesn’t have a lot of ideal gardening space. Tony wanted low maintenance “flower” beds that are full of rock, so I’ve had to improvise with raised bed containers for my vegetables and herbs. The downside is that I can’t plant as much as I’d like, but the upside is that with it all contained, there will be less weeding, if any.

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For the last couple of days I’ve been planting things here and there.

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We are having a very rare for us, early spring. I planted my vegetable seedlings 2 weeks ago and now each day new sprouts are coming up. I’m going to try something different this year. Every time I pull something to eat, I’m going to plop another seed in. If we continue to have a long growing season, then that should give us veggies clear into late Fall. We’ll see how it works.

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Spending a day in the garden is my all around, heal everything salve. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the smell of fresh earth… Deer are milling around in the hills. Robins are hunting for worms in the grass. Abigail is sunning herself. That peaceful feeling…there’s nothing like it. And as if those things aren’t reward enough, you get to watch things grow and change. It’s extremely satisfying.

Add a grilled, relaxing lunch out on the patio to a gardening day, and you really can’t get much closer to a perfect day.

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Grilled Chicken Legs

5-6 Chicken legs. Place them in a plastic bag with about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, about 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, a good amount of Sriracha, about 1 Tablespoon of coconut sugar, about 1 teaspoon of sea salt, about 1 Tablespoon of dried oregano (or fresh)…and marinate for 2 hours before grilling on medium.

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Grilled Yellow Squash

 1 Squash cut in half lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, season with garlic powder and sea salt. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. I used rosemary and thyme. Grill to aldente.

2015-05-01 11.58.43

A Big Tight Hug & An Amazing Avocado Dressing

8 Comments

2015-04-30 11.39.17

On Monday we found out that my schizophrenic aunt, Nan, had been evicted from her apartment a week prior and had been taken to a shelter by the apartment management. The management had my mother’s phone number in her file and never bothered to tell anyone what they had done. Her things were packed and stored and will be kept for 45 days. Then, at 45 days the manager told me they usually “dispose of it”. Her apartment was filled with her mother’s, my grandmother’s, family heirlooms and antiques and everything Nan owns in this world. We were also told we would either need Nan’s notarized signature or a court order to remove any of her things from their storage.

After trying to track her down, Tuesday we found out that she was not at the shelter that the apartment manager supposedly said they took her to, nor at any other shelter in town, and we were advised to file a missing person’s report.

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The authorities told us that if “they happened to see her” they would pick her up, but they wouldn’t seek her out. Tuesday morning came and took us all on a fast track in the direction of the worst possible scenarios… that try as you might, you absolutely cannot get out of your head. I grabbed mom and we ran errands in hopes of trying to control the worry welling inside of us. Samantha, her oldest daughter, had to deal with these feelings while in training for a new job in Seattle and handling phone calls from the sheriff and mom and I. And the youngest daughter, Amanda, I’m assuming was trying to figure out the impossible task of concentrating in class in her first semester in college.

Yesterday, after a fitful night of sleep I decided to post a bit of the story and prayer requests here on the blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. I had already been praying of course, but when people band together, miraculous things can happen. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am among them”. ~ Matthew 18:20 This is where my BIG TIGHT HUG to all of you comes in. I was so blessed and amazed by all of the support, kind words, and prayers. You will never know what it means to our family that you took time from your own lives, busy schedules, and your own issues, to pray for our family and to pray for Nan’s safety. Your comments here and on Facebook kept the panic from getting completely out of control. Within 2 hours of posting those prayer requests, a story that could have ended in any number of terrible and life changing ways for our family, has a happy ending.

There were some conflicting stories with the complex management yesterday, but luckily my mother took matters into her own hands and visited the police station. An extremely kind detective sat with her for over an hour and did some serious detective work to try to figure out what had happened. Long story short, she had changed hands between a few police officers, shelters, and a hospital. She was dropped at a shelter by police, but then was not cooperating. New officers took her to the psyche unit at the hospital where she was evaluated. Then the hospital moved her to another psychiatric facility which I’m guessing is run by the state.

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She is safe and she is in a psychiatric facility where they are evaluating her. The facility was given her daughter’s number so that if Nan chose to, she could call us. With the current mental health laws, family members are at a complete loss when it comes to helping another family member with mental illness unless that person requests help. They wouldn’t even tell us the exact facility where she was being held.

The great news? Nan called Samantha yesterday afternoon. They are stabilizing her meds, she was thinking clearly, and she asked for help. Samantha also mentioned that Nan told her she loved her numerous times. Something Samantha hasn’t heard in a very, very, long time. Nan agreed to sign the paperwork so we could get her things that are being held by the apartment complex. Sam will be coming this weekend and Nan is looking forward to the visit. The facility will not let her leave until she has housing. All huge blessings and prayers answered.

There’s always a reason for everything. I have a difficult time remembering that when something so seemingly impossible to handle comes along. There is a huge dark cloud, but it definitely has a silver lining. The dark cloud of course, is that this isn’t the first time and most likely won’t be the last time we will have challenges with my aunt because this type of mental illness is relentless and evil.  The silver lining, is that had she not run out of money, had she not stopped paying her rent, had they not evicted her, and had the police not been involved, she wouldn’t be getting the help that she is getting right now.

The state does not intervene in any way unless someone is broke  and has proven to be dangerous to themselves or others. Now that she is homeless, broke and mentally ill (some of all of our worst nightmares rolled into one)…where you would think that prevention instead of waiting until things are in their worst possible state would be the way to go… this backward process of helping the mentally ill, will now after about 15 years of hell, be helpful to her. She will be assigned a case worker and will hopefully begin to get the counseling, medication monitoring, and housing that she so desperately needs. And this time thankfully, all of the pieces came together quickly and the outcome is so much better than what we were bracing ourselves for.

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Every. Thing. Happens. For. A. Reason. Even when it seems awful, even when it is awful. Even when it doesn’t happen the exact way you want it to or the timeline or the details don’t make sense. Things must work out a certain way to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. That is a simple enough statement to understand, yet an enormously complex reality when you’re in the thick of something terrible.

Thank you again for your generosity of heart and prayers. From those of you we know well, and those of you we have never met. You will never know the depth and impact that kind of love has on us.

Blessings and Big Tight Hugs, from my family to you.

~ April

Cilantro Lime Avocado Dressing

This recipe is adapted from my mom’s recipe.

2 Ripe Avocados

1 1/2 Cups of Cilantro

Juice of 1 Lime

3 Cloves of Garlic

1/2 Cup of EVOO

2-3 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar, depending on how tart you like your dressing

1 1/2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1/2 Cup (maybe a bit more to thin it out) of Filtered Water

Place all the ingredients in a Nutribullet, blender, or food processor and blend until smooth. You may have to shake and scrape the sides once or twice to get it all incorporated. Serve on anything you like, it’s absolutely delicious!

A Special Prayer Request & A Shameful Mental Health Care System

18 Comments

My schizophrenic aunt has been missing for two weeks. She was evicted from her apartment two weeks ago, and none of us were informed until two days ago. Evidently, she told the apartment complex she could no longer pay her rent and they supposedly dropped her off at a shelter. Yet, none of the shelters in our town have any record of her.

You may or may not know someone with schizophrenia or mental illness, but they can be very difficult to deal with. For a while she was in contact with the family and then began to go through rages and not wanting to speak to us. Her daughters haven’t heard from her in months and couldn’t get a hold of her. I talked to her one month ago to check up on her and our conversation was less than 2 minutes and she hung up on me because she didn’t believe what I was telling her. Prior to that, the only time I would hear from her personally, was when she would leave long incoherent messages on my voicemail. Her cousin, who has checked in with her monthly for years, called my mom sobbing two weeks after that because my aunt would not believe that she was who she said she was and became very violent. She can be horrible to deal with, unpredictable, and scary. She has been taken over by an illness that has stolen everything we knew and loved and cherished about her. She is a completely different person that the woman we grew up with. After years and years of trying to reason with her, get her to help herself, and monitor her behavior, we all had to come to a place of acceptance. People with schizophrenia don’t think clearly, obviously, so to get them to cooperate by taking their medication, keeping in touch, and taking care of themselves is mostly, impossible. Sometimes the best you can hope for is a check in. So you at least know they are where they are supposed to be and are still alive. Imagine that being what your biggest hope is for a family member? I know that we are not the only ones having to deal with tragedies like this and the mental health care system in the U.S. is absolutely shameful.

The worst part is that the government has given the mentally ill person all the rights, and the families and loved ones have none. She refused to give my mom power of attorney for medical care. So even when she is checked into a psyche unit, emergency room, or shelter, the only way we’ll know is if she wants us to know. Her phone isn’t always working and all of our numbers are stored in it. So, no phone, no numbers to get a hold of us. We have zero rights and zero resources to be able to get her the help she needs. The fact that the government would put a person who is not capable of making logical decisions on their own, charge of their own health care is mind boggling and absolutely devastating to the family members who are trying to help them. It is like watching a slow and excruciating horror film where you know the ending is not going to be a relief. Her 25 year old daughter who just started her dream job two days ago, told me yesterday that she feels that she is now at the point where she will get the call where she will have to identify her mom’s body. Her youngest daughter has just started college. Having an ill mother has changed their lives in innumerable ways and waiting for the other shoe to drop for years and years while having NO rights to help their mom has been devastating to say the least.

My aunt was hospitalized for I think the 4th time about a year ago because she was arrested for hitting her brother (whom she was living with) in the head with a water glass, my mom was told that the state would do absolutely nothing for her until she ran out of money. At the time she ends up broke, if she had the wherewithal to seek help, she would then need to apply for state support and then would begin to get the resources she needs. Just absolutely unbelievable. We are assuming that because she cannot pay her rent that she is now out of money.  The sheriff’s department and the crisis center are now involved, but they won’t actively seek her. If they see her, they will pick her up and if we see her and she won’t willingly come with us, we can supposedly call them to take her against her will. Only at that point, now that she is homeless, broke, out of her mind, and missing, will we be able to begin to hopefully work within the system to get her what she needs. One can’t help but see the cruel irony in this.

Prayers for her safety first and foremost would be so deeply appreciated. Prayers that we find her quickly, and prayers for strength and peace for our family are needed.

And because I know that I have the kindest, most caring, followers in the blogging world, I know that I can count on those of you who pray.

 Love & Blessings to You ~  April

Update:

We have some serious prayer warriors! One hour after posting prayer requests on FB, Twitter, and the blog, my aunt has been FOUND! Mom went to the spokane valley police dept. and a detective there worked on it for an hour with her. They tracked her down. She was taken to a shelter, then was non compliant so the city police took her to the hospital. She was there for an evaluation and then was moved to one of their psychiatric facilities called for further evaluation. They cannot tell us which facility, but someone will call when she is going to be released. Now that she is in the “system” and homeless, the state will intervene and she will hopefully get some support and they will let us get involved. Thank you so much for your prayers, you will never know how much it means to us. Blessings to all of you!