Category Archives: Personal

A Non-Update Update on Scott and Bigby

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I wish I could say that I was writing about baking again because everything with Scott’s situation at work was resolved.  I wish I could tell you that Phoenix city management listened to the many voices that are supporting us.   I wish that all of the people who promised they would be there for Scott and I when they came to the hospital had made good on those promises. I wish I could tell you  that everything was going to be ok and that Scott and I could focus on healing. I wish I wasn’t filled with trepidation and uneasiness every day. I can’t tell you any of those things.

I can tell you that I’m determined to try not to lose myself, my marriage and my sanity.

I’ve been horribly sick for weeks and slow to get better.  It’s very frustrating to feel like you have to keep fighting and be physically falling apart.  If my sister hadn’t made it out here for Thanksgiving I don’t know that I’d be doing this well.  It was good to have family here and it gave me something positive to focus on.  She also made one of my November recipes on Thanksgiving with Scott that turned out absolutely fabulous although I was too sick to write something coherent.

The holidays have been hard on me this year.  They feel empty and hollow, a stark reminder that my life was interrupted and due to powers beyond my control I’m currently on a forced pause. I have this gnawing fear that I will never “feel” a Christmas again, like all the magic is gone.  I’m hoping that time will be my ally despite feeling like my foe.

If I had a Christmas wish it would be that Scott would be able to tell his own story. No one tells his story better than him.  He deserves the right to tell his own story to the public. I deserve to have my own story.

-Christie

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You Are Not Alone

Bigby and his buddy Ollie when he was still a pup.
Bigby and his buddy Ollie when he was still a pup.

A year ago today Craig Tiger took his own life.  While on duty Craig had been involved in a fatal shooting. He suffered for some time before being diagnosed with PTSD.  I can only imagine how terrifying it was for him to experience the feelings of isolation and guilt in secret. When is PTSD resulted in a DUI the lack of mercy and understanding from the Chief at that time had an enormous impact on his healing and recovery and based on his own words led to his suicide. The two children he so clearly adored were left without their father. His ex-wife Rebecca Tiger fought to educate and continues to fight so that this does not happen to another officer. His death shook this city up.

As we strive to educate the city of Phoenix on service dogs and PTSD in our first responders it strikes me that some of those who are fighting their own battles may be discouraged.  I’ve been looking up other cases of officers that suffer from PTSD and  the stories are familiar.  I read the tragic stories of Ken BarkerAshley BryantRon FrancisPaul BuchananJohn Seifert and Ryan Healy. I also read about survivors like Brian Post and Sgt. Rob Atkins who has a PTSD service dog.

One of the things that I keep reading over and over is that officers are concerned that if they come forward they will lose their jobs or the respect and trust of their peers.  Seeing the current hassle that Scott is going through shouldn’t discourage anyone from getting help and support.  Phoenix city management appears to be sorely in need of information and education but they are a very small portion of the greater community. The overall response to Scott and Bigby’s story has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, particularly from Scott’s coworkers.  It seems that some magic in the world brought the most supportive officers in the universe here to Phoenix.

When Scott is feeling down he often references a post by Myke Cole. Myke is a fellow veteran Coastie, writer and good friend who like Scott has PTSD. Seeing a friend actively taking a role in being his best self with PTSD has helped Scott immensely. PTSD tends to be so incredibly dramatized and misunderstood. The media often depicts a world filled with outward chaos and violence. My experience with Scott has been one of a terrifying quiet. My favorite Myke post, What PTSD Is, has been the key to realizing that Scott was not alone.  As Myke puts it: “It is the shaking real­iza­tion that love cannot pro­tect you, and even worse, that you cannot pro­tect those you love. It is the final sur­ren­dering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, eth­ical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared.” I’ve watched this happen in real time and it is heart breaking.  Like watching Superman next to a piece of kryptonite.

Until you realize that what made Superman so great was the Clark Kent aspect.  There is no question that Clark would continue to help people however he could, superpowers or not.  For me Scott is a hero because he is honest about what he is going through. He knows that telling the truth will help others.

Don’t be deterred by our current struggle if you need help.  You have the support of your brothers and sisters in blue.  Our communities  support first responders with PTSD. As a family member who watches someone fight this every day I can tell you that your family and friends love you even if they can’t always understand.

You are not alone.

-Christie


If you need help here are a few resources:

Safe Call: If you need immediate assistance please call 206-459-3020.  This is a 24 hour line that is completely confidential for first responders and family members. You will get a live person who is a public safety employee themselves.

Badge of Life: I love this group because they seem so old school cop.  Direct and detail oriented the group has many former and current officers on their board.  If you are currently a first responder or family member of a first responder they will be very familiar with the unique stressors you face. They have services for both the US and Canada and their links page has  lots of resources and programs for first responders. Check our their Facebook page too. 

Psychologists/Counselors: One of the most important parts of Scott’s recovery has been the work he’s done and is going with a psychologist.  Aren’t sure where to go?  Try asking a friend.  That’s how Scott found his and I think it helped him to start with a foundation of trust.  You can always get a reference from your insurance or employee assistance program too.

EMDR: This stands for eye movement desensitization and processing.  Scott and I first heard about this in our college psychology class.  It’s an intense version of therapy that targets specific traumatic memories and utilizes a light bar. I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about it but when it was recommended that Scott try it I was on board.  He went to a psychologist that was specifically trained to utilize this method for PTSD.  Scott felt it was very beneficial and I feel like I saw results too.

Acupuncture: Yes I know.  I tend to be very skeptical of alternative medicine too.  However, you can find lots of people that find this beneficial.  Don’t rule it out if you don’t mind having tiny needles stuck in you.  Scott had this done more for the horrible digestive issues he was having and the results were immediate and impressive.  When someone has had extreme pain at every meal for 8 months and immediately after their first acupuncture session they eat a burger no problem you become a believer.

Foundation for Service Dog Support: This is the group that Scott is working with.  Getting Bigby was a game changer for Scott and for me too.  It’s been a lot of work and clearly there have been challenges but for us it has been worth it for the chance for Scott to feel like a whole person again.  They are based out of the Phoenix area but have an outlier program for outlier areas.

An Update on Scott and Bigby

Scott and Bigby on the TrailThe amount of support we have received for Scott and Bigby has been overwhelming.  I have read some of the most amazing messages and letters and they prove what I already knew: our friends, family, coworkers and community are intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful. Thousands of people have read my Request for Help and many have assisted us in educating the city of Phoenix on PTSD and service dogs.  Unfortunately the city still has not realized that Scott has the right to bring Bigby to work and took retaliatory action against him yesterday.  Below I’m posting my email to Chief Yahner which I sent today.  Thank you so much for your continued support.  We could never have done this without you.  I owe you all lots of lemon bars and hugs.-Christie

Dear Chief Yahner,

I am extremely disappointed in your response. By taking retaliatory action against Scott you are halting the resolution of what should be a simple issue. However, I’m glad that we have started a dialogue. I only wish that it had taken place earlier.

One of my main concerns with this situation is the extremely inappropriate phone call that Scott received from the Human Resources department. It is clear that the city needs to take steps to educate this particular employee and the department in general. No one has yet addressed this issue. I expect Scott to receive an apology and I would like reassurance that the city will address this issue and work to educate their human resources employees so that this will not happen to anyone else. Scott and I have always been willing to have a dialogue regarding his use of a service dog. We are fully aware that he is breaking some new ground and can provide you with resources to better educate city management as well as police management.

When Scott made the decision to have a service dog he also made a decision to join the service dog community at large. As such he knew that part of this would be educating the public, his coworkers and family about the role that Bigby his service dog plays in his life. He also has a duty to fight for his rights when they are violated. Your assumption that the city makes the decision on whether he can bring his service dog to work is incorrect. He has a legal right to have a service dog at work and city or police management do not have the ability to change this law. I’m sure you are well aware that the community supports Scott and Bigby. I have received copies of some of the letters that have been sent to the city manager’s office. We are so incredibly lucky to have such articulate and compassionate family, friends, neighbors, officers, veterans and community members. Please use the information that they have provided you with.

The retaliatory action of asking Scott to remove his shield and gun while in public is not only ridiculous but also completely contrary to every action the department has taken prior to Scott asserting his right to a service dog. You yourself have been at several public events with Scott where he has worn his shield, service weapon and had Bigby with him. Scott has suffered an egregious injury in the line of duty and I think you should be proud that the police department has made reasonable accommodation to allow him to safely and proficiently access his service weapon in the form of a thigh holster. Scott has been able to pass all of his qualifications and there is no reason that he should not be allowed to wear his service weapon and shield in public. Scott has been successfully working as a Missing Persons detective with Bigby for over two months. If a citizen were to approach him for help he would be able to professionally and proficiently provide assistance if in the unfortunate instance that it would require the use of his service weapon. The reality is that Scott will live in some degree of pain for the rest of his life. He will also live with the physical consequences of missing portions of his small and large intestine that prevent him from being able to be on patrol. However, none of these injuries prevent him from using his service weapon or being able to assist the public as the department has been well aware up until this issue arose.

I feel as though the portion of this discussion that you have not yet realized is that Scott and Bigby are a symbol of hope. Your officers need to know that if the worst were to happen you would support them in their recovery. I’m sure you are aware at this point that the community expects this from you and the city management as well. Scott is not the only officer that is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is not the only officer that suffers chronic physical pain from injuries sustained in protecting this city. This issue is larger than Scott and Bigby; it is about how you treat all of those who serve. We have to be adamant in demanding that this issue is dealt with quickly, appropriately and with compassion because we have to show other officers there is hope. The worst possible outcomes from these types of situations lead officers to hide their physical and psychological pain. That road only leads to anger, pain, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and death. Scott and Bigby are on a different path. Scott immediately sought treatment both physically and mentally following his shooting. He has been in many hours of extremely painful and difficult work. He left no stone unturned in searching for help. This path led him to Bigby as a way to be his best possible self and the best possible officer that he could be.

Scott is your greatest ally. Or at least he will be; never doubt the power of an apology. If Scott can forgive the person that shot him and move forward in such a positive manner imagine what he will be able to do for the department. The department has made some great advances under your leadership. There is more awareness of PTSD than ever. There is a new employee assistance unit (EAU) and the officer who has been in communication with me has been compassionate, logical and professional even in the midst of my grief and heartache at the pain that has been caused by the city’s careless actions. However, it is clear that more work needs to be done. Scott found a path that led to his best self after the type of critical incident that has proved career ending for other officers. He is a model of what to do following a critical incident. He has taken every step necessary so that he can serve this city and continue his career as a public servant. What better resource could there be.

Do the right thing. Show your officers that you have care and compassion for the inevitable suffering that some of them will face. Return Scott’s shield and gun to him in public. Work with the city management to get Scott his well-deserved apology and to educate them on this issue. I know this has been a headache and a hassle but this is bigger than just Scott and Bigby. This is about how the leadership in our city deals with those that have sacrificed for their city. You have the opportunity to do something great; don’t let it pass you by.

I look forward to our continued communication on this issue.

Sincerely,

Christie Prince Sefranka

A Request for Help

Scott and Bigby at Work

Some of you know that Scott has been raising and training a service dog to treat his PTSD.  We had discussions with each other, his doctors and our family and friends before embarking on this journey. We’ve received amazing support from The Foundation for Service Dog Support that supports first responders.  From the moment Scott began to take his dog Bigby to work with him our lives have changed. Scott was able to break his cycle of isolation and enjoy being out in the world. He truly enjoys working as a Missing Persons detective. I was able to transition from being a caregiver back to being a partner for the first time since he was shot.

This dog has been well behaved since the first day on the job.
This dog has been well behaved since the first day on the job.

Unfortunately, the city of Phoenix does not want Bigby to come to work with Scott, and their reasons are unfounded, being based on both erroneous facts and ignorant assumptions as indicated by their language in our recent correspondence. Bigby is a psychiatric service dog and is clearly covered as reasonable accommodation under the law.  He is not a therapy dog, emotional support dog or just a fun pet.  The HR representative that called Scott would not use the word PTSD and instead referred to it as “mood issues” and repeatedly called Bigby an emotional support dog despite Scott’s repeated attempts to correct and explain. Scott had a medical doctor and two psychologists, one of which specializes in treating PTSD, diagnose PTSD and recommend that he get a psychiatric service dog.

For someone with PTSD this was enough to trigger an episode. Thankfully, Scott had the wherewithal to call me and got out enough words so that I understood what was going on and could rush home.  Scott once told me that when he was shot he never believed he was actually going to die and he thought that had helped him live through it. Now, I was watching Scott lose his will to live on my living room floor and the only thing keeping him here was Bigby.

An emergency page to his psychologist’s office, a visit from a good friend and constant care from Bigby helped Scott come back.  I spent the night speaking with a variety of different people and demanding that this issue be resolved.  Unfortunately, this has been a big step back in Scott’s recovery.  I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of him than when he got up, got dressed and went to work the next morning (with his service dog of course).  The instinct for someone with PTSD is to isolate and avoid; I can’t even imagine how difficult that was for him to do.  Particularly, because there was a chance that he would be walked out the door for bringing his service dog despite the legal protections.

Scott has taken steps to treat his PTSD from the beginning.  It has been a struggle but he is a fighter and he’s been fighting hard for a long time and was turning some major corners. He is the love of my life and my best friend.  I will never stop fighting for what is best for Scott.

The thing is, I can’t do this by myself. Scott needs your help too.  He needs his brothers and sisters in blue, his fellow veterans, his family and his friends.

Ways you can help:

Send Scott words of encouragement on Facebook.

Send Scott words of encouragement on Twitter (@QkslvrSailor)

Share his story.

Contact the Phoenix City Manager:

Ed Zuercher, Phoenix City Hall

200 W Washington St.

Phoenix, AZ 85003

Phone (602) 262-6941

Email: ed.zuercher@phoenix.gov

If you live in the city of Phoenix, you can also contact your Phoenix city councilperson.

Thank you for the continued support,

Christie

Even when Bigby was an untrained little puppy he brought joy to Scott's life by giving him hope.
Even when Bigby was an untrained little puppy he brought joy to Scott’s life by giving him hope.

Guest Post: Sharing Meals with your Filmmaker Family

So excited for my first guest post.  My sister Carrie sent me a script she wrote for a short film awhile back that blew me away.  I love talking with her about her experiences working on big budget sets and production but there is something very special about this small project.  Even the film about making the film is pretty magic.  You can sense the wonderful energy and beauty that they are creating with this project.  If you want to join in and be a part of making this film happen check out Carrie’s link at the bottom of her post.

Filmmaker Family Time.

I’ve known a special universal truth for a very long time and it’s served me well over these years working in the field of art and entertainment: Food brings people together. Food makes people happy. Therefore, eat food, together, and things will go okay.

Living and working in Los Angeles in the entertainment world for the last six years and having not gone off the deep end or had any nervous breakdowns, I sometimes get asked by L.A. hopefuls or parents of L.A. hopefuls – how do you survive? L.A. feels so harsh and materialistic. L.A. people seem horrible. L.A. sucks, doesn’t it? Truth is, yeah, sometimes it really, really does. No lie, Los Angeles can friggin’ suck. Hard. Parking tickets. Weirdos. Traffic. The constant hustle of not doing enough and wondering about your next paycheck. Luckily, there are antidotes for the sucky-ness and they don’t come in the form of success or money – although those can be nice when deserved. They come from the same things that make anyone feel safe, happy and whole. The first thing I tell anyone is that you have to find your L.A. family. Not blood relatives necessarily. Not people on a screen that you obsess over. This family is the one made up of your friends that actually like you. The ones that listen to you and are generous in spirit. These are the people that invite you to their place for no other reason than to just hang out and laugh. Most importantly, these are the people you eat with. A lot.

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Delicious food – in the form of good snacks or good meals- has magical qualities for keeping groups happy. It can change the atmosphere of a room in seconds. It is, hands down, my favorite way to get to know people. I’ve made it a habit to really remember people’s food preferences and it’s amazing how much this can be a persuasive way of making friends. When I graduated college, I was awarded a scholarship at graduation and the only reason this is relevant at all (brag alert), is that part of the speech this professor gave mentioned the plethora of snacks I brought to rehearsals. That was such a distinct part of my leadership abilities – bringing food – that my esteemed professor included it in her speech… to the very packed theatre of parents and peers. It got a good laugh, but the point is that I knew, even back then, food is an important tool for me. Eating together unites a group in a way that not much else does. It’s magic. Wielding the positive power of collective eating – seeing how happy eating leads to productivity and teamwork – has become a strange asset in the way I approach any job, P.A. or Director. It is an essential tool in my toolbox and I use it every time, with 100% success.

1185580_10201094223106695_975755181_nFilm Family

This year has been another sweet reminder of the importance of eating good food together. I belong to a fantastic group of generous, kind filmmakers and artists that I feel are my L.A. family and some of us have been tirelessly working on a project that requires a lot of late night meetings and weekend get-togethers- a difficult task given our L.A. schedules. Luckily, these are people who also believe in the power of collective, family style eating and it affirms our connection and creates a space of comfort constantly. There is rarely a week we don’t at least try to do some sort of potluck meeting where foods are brought, shared and devoured. Aside from our deep discussions about our intensely difficult goals and dreams, we talk about food stuff a lot. We’ve probably had about twenty lengthy conversations about cheese. We fuss over different wines, their cost, and what store they were on sale at. One brave soul recently made homemade Kombucha successfully (look up images for ‘scoby’ and tell me that ain’t brave). We don’t all have the same diets but even that is part of the magic- we all consider each other in what we bring and what we make. The personal nature of simply sharing together, celebrating cooking and real food, making awesome recipe discoveries together, and especially laughing over meal failures has been, in my opinion, a large part of how we end up negotiating our projects together too – like a family. Not always perfect, but willing to negotiate and make it work.

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To learn more about some of this filmmaker family and the current project we’re working on called Kinesthesia, visit us on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/KinesthesiaFilm) and take a look at our live, 30-day campaign on Seed&Spark (http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/kinesthesia) where you can join us in helping the film get made and see where it all ends up. We’d love to share our progress with you – and guaranteed, you’ll spot some of our family-style potluck meetings during production!

Now, let’s go eat. I’m suddenly starving.

-Carrie

Comforting Casserole and the Restless Heart

Cut ParmentierIt’s been a long few weeks.  A lethal combination of allergies, ensuing illness and personal and professional stress has been taking a toll. The chicken parmentier proposed in the latest Every Day Dorie seemed like a perfect remedy for the cold and rainy weather that was going on outside and in my life.

Parmentier Ingredients

I love a good casserole and had always foolishly thought of it as a typical American dish. This dish is heavily scented with spice and appears to be paleo friendly from the little I know about paleo.  It was perfect to invite some neighbors over and unwind.

parmentier insides

I think at heart I’m an escapist.  I need to remove myself from a situation to get perspective and cope.  Sometimes life makes this impossible and I spend an inordinate amount of time day dreaming about hiking on trails and crossing creeks. As if the only stability was the instability of a wandering life. Spring is coming and I know I can sate this craving.  I just have to be patient.  Hold on for another weekend, another month and relief will be there.

For now it appears that one horrible chapter is closing and a new one is may be on the horizon.  The shooter in Scott’s case was sentenced after pleading guilty. Justice is a funny thing.  A concept that exists in our minds but I’m not sure genuinely exists in the tangible world. There isn’t any joy in a mother losing her son or a child being separated from their parent because of the incredibly foolish decisions he made.  Our lives don’t magically revert back to how they were before. It will never really be over for any of us. I do feel the relief of no longer having a potential trial and verdict hanging over our heads.

Sometimes it’s just one day at a time.

Fabulous appetizer brought by our friends and neighbors.
Fabulous appetizer brought by our friends and neighbors.
Couldn't resist adding a sprinkle of paprika to the finished parmentier.
Couldn’t resist adding a sprinkle of paprika to the finished parmentier.

Grapefruit Granita

So I bake and I cook.  One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.

Good things are coming.  They have to be.

-Christie

Silver Linings

NYE Cake Slice

2014 was a rough year.  Last New Year’s Eve I don’t remember even being aware that it had rolled around.  I was sitting in an ICU waiting room without any real concept of time hoping that Scott would pull through and stay with me.  It’s been an uphill battle since then to figure out what life is going to be like.

As I reflect back on all the pain, anxiety and sadness the past year has brought it’s hard to ignore all the good things that have happened too.  Things that wouldn’t have happened if our life hadn’t been irreparably broken.

Visiting the Grand Canyon

NYE Grand Canyon

We had always planned to go to the Grand Canyon together.  Having Scott unable to move around very well and Hermit’s Road open so we could take a driving tour worked out perfectly.  We had unusually wonderful weather for February and while it was probably too much too soon it was an amazing and beautiful time.

Spending Weekends Together

NYE Weekends

The first year that Scott and I were married he was home less than 3 months due to deployments.  After he became a police officer he worked weekends and I worked a typical 8 to 5 work week.  We used to joke that we were still so crazy about each other because we hardly ever saw one another.  Since Scott has only been working part time and is working in a role where he isn’t required to work every weekend we have spent much more time together.

Starting This Blog

Enjoying my tea and cookies.

I doubt I would have taken up this blog if Scott hadn’t been injured.  I’ve always found baking and cooking a great way to relieve stress and feel like I have a little control over my world. I constantly have something to look forward too that doesn’t involve social anxiety and let’s me practice my baking skills.  I’m looking forward to a 2015 filled with flour freckled clothing and the scent of sweets.

One of Scott’s friends referred to today as his birthday and I’m really embracing this idea.  So much so that I decided to make him a cake to celebrate this last year of living.

I made a chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting from Dorie Greenspan that was a great balance of rich chocolate and fluffy topping and perfect with a little champagne.  It’s been a difficult day but once we lit the sparkler that represented the past year I felt like everything was going to be ok.  I don’t feel that way as often as you might think.

NYE INgredientsNYE Cake BatterNYE Baked CakesNYE Finished Cake

Everyone wants a happy ending.  They want everything to be ok and Scott to be healed and our lives to be perfect.  Well that just isn’t the case.  Scott is still really sick quite frequently, I’m exhausted and depressed by the interruption of our life plans that may never get back on track and our lives will never be the same.  It’s ok  because this isn’t the ending. It’s the beginning.

Someday Scott’s New Year’s Eve cake will have lots of candles instead of a single big sparkly one.  I hope for a future with happiness and peace.  A future that’s better than the present.  Where our silver linings become our daily lives.

NYE Year 1 Cake

Why My Pictures Look Great (My Secret Photo Weapon)

Scott at Badger Creek
Braving cold temps to capture reflection.

The reason for my great photos is pretty clear: my husband Scott.  He started taking photos with an old digital camera a few year ago during our hikes and it quickly developed into a hobby.

Scott Laying on Rocks Tonto
Scott capturing the travertine ceiling at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. That can’t be comfortable. Pretty obvious I’m the one that took this photo-blurry much?

Normally he prefers to be out in nature capturing a scenic view but when I mentioned I had a friend who was encouraging me to blog with Baking Chez Moi he graciously offered to help.  He’s always been my number one fan and supporter although I’m pretty sure the thought of all the baked goods didn’t hurt.

Braving the freezing cold water.
Braving the freezing cold water.

Some of you know I have blogged before both on my own and with a group. (If you aren’t familiar with The Wilderness Girls check them out-the blog is lovely.)  While I like writing and I enjoy photos I’m just not all that great at taking them and generally find it a chore.

While I may take a few pictures if Scott isn’t available, the majority and definitely the best ones are always taken by him. He is familiar with my impatience and after more than a decade together is aware of how I work in the kitchen. He’s able to photograph while I do my thing and get baking. I have a feeling his love of eating helps a lot.  His love affair with food appears evident in the photos.

My husband adored these to the point of immediately attempting to hoard them all for himself.  He ended up sharing a few cookies with his coworkers and with some friends.
Cookie hoarding can be a problem.

So my secret is out.  I love to bake but this blog would not be possible without the beautiful photos provided by Scott.  Hopefully I can showcase more of his photos as our adventures continue.  I definitely don’t think I’d be having as much fun without him.

-Christie

(A little bit more about Scott.)

 

Apple Cake, Escape and PTSD

Morning Sun West ForkNavigating Logs West ForkOrange Tree West Fork

We’ve enjoyed such an incredible Fall season here in Arizona.  The fall colors here are unbelievably beautiful and the fall apples are crisp and sweetly tart. I’ve been burning through my untested apple recipes to varying success because I just can’t resist stopping and getting a new batch of apples on our drive home from whatever magical trail we just slogged our way through.

West Fork Fishing Crossing the Creek West ForkFalling Leaves West Fork

Escape is wonderful.  As comfy and cozy as my house in Phoenix is the time we spend exploring outdoors often provides a much needed mental break.  Focusing on figuring out the trail among a bombardment of beautiful sites forces me to set aside my anxieties and worries.  I find that when I come back home I have a fresh perspective and even when my body is tired my mind feels refreshed.

Yellow Leaves West ForkCanyon West Fork TrailRushing Water West ForkYellow and Red West ForkOllie and I West Fork

The trails have been much harder this year.  My husband is a Phoenix police officer and was shot in the line of duty on New Year’s Eve.  While I am incredibly thankful that he is alive the journey has been and will continue to be a difficult one.  He will never be able to regain all the physical capability and strength that he once had.  He has to work incredibly hard to do things that he would never have thought twice about in the past.

One of the biggest challenges that he faces is the after affects of the extreme physical and mental trauma. PTSD in law enforcement has become a hot topic in our city lately due to the incredibly unfortunate suicide of a former officer.  My husband did the bravest and most courageous act I’ve ever seen in his law enforcement career.  He spoke out about his own struggles so that others didn’t have to feel so afraid and alone.

It’s funny how after such a monumental moment our life can go right back to a lazy weekend spent baking, listening to music and playing games.  I’ve got apples and pumpkins to be pureed, grated, chopped and baked and time waits for no one.  Besides an apple pie-because let’s get real here, that’s really the best thing you can do with apples-our favorite apple recipe has been a fantastic apple cake from Sharing the Table.

Apple Cake IngredientsApple Peeler Apple Cake

The best thing about this cake is the number one ingredient is apples.  I can’t stand when something is called apple cake where the apple is really just a sad reference to a few dried and chewy chunks of apple garnish.  This cake has twice as much apple as it does flour and it is so good.  I switched the recipe up a bit and grated the apple rather than chopping it.  With so many apples to process it was just easier and it still turned out fabulous.Apple Cake BatterFinished Apple Cake

The only thing I was wary about when I read the recipe was the topping.  It was pretty tasty but not exactly necessary.  It did make for quite the pretty presentation.  The flavors and texture of this cake remind me of my grandmother.  Simple yet rich and highlighting what is fresh and in season.  It would be a perfect way to use of apples that were full of flavor but cosmetically imperfect or partially bruised.

Apple Cake with ApplesApple Cake Final

It’s funny how certain moments seem to exist to remind me that everything is going to be ok.  We were driving home from Sedona and were snacking on one of the recently acquired roadside apples when I noticed a bug had invaded a portion of the delicious flesh.  I pointed it out to Scott so he could avoid it and instead he took a big bite right in the “danger zone” and with a huge grin told me he needed some extra protein.  And there is it: a boyish smile that delights in making me squirm as long as I also giggle.  LIfe is to be enjoyed. Imperfect apples and all.

-ChristieTogether Pic