A Spur Trail of Sorts

A spur trail on the SHT is a side trail off the main trail that will take you to a monument, overlook, parking lot, campsite, etcetera. Right now, I feel like I am on a spur trail of life, however, I am not walking away from the main trail, I am working my way back. The main trail of my life.

I started writing this update on Facebook, however, it became a bit lengthy, so I figured this would be a better portal of communication. And, it really feels good to be writing in my blog again.

Tonight I am writing because I am needing positive prayers, thoughts, vibes, light, love, whatever you can send my way. Tomorrow I have a job interview. Normally I wouldn’t be the type to post this type of stuff, because of course, everyone will wonder if I get the job or not. But not this time. I need help, from all of you, from God, from the universe. These days I have faith that what I need, things or experiences, will be provided as long as I do the work. This girl is ready to work.

This week I put off volunteering on the trail to do some aggressive job and house hunting. My heart is still on the trail, however, my heart is also, first and foremost, very much with my son Parker. In the name of stability, for me, and for him, I have made it my mission to reside up here on the North Shore. The place that brings me the peace and healing like no place else can right now.

My interview is with a very historic resort directly on Lake Superior and less than a mile from the Superior Hiking Trail AND the ski slopes of the beautiful Lutsen Mountains. The job would be a wonderful and long term career opportunity for me.

Otherwise, I have a couple leads on some housing, but nothing too concrete yet. Seems like housing up here usually happens from word of mouth and through the grapevine. If anybody knows of anything or anybody along the North Shore, from say Beaver Bay up to Grand Marais, please pass any information my way. It would be truly appreciated.

Last, but of course not least, thanks from bottom of my heart and soul for all of your love and support during both my thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail and during my Kickstarter campaign. They were both a huge success! Of course, neither would have been possible without all of you. 

I am also busy putting my book together. Currently working on my writing, quite aggressively, while I am still so fresh off the trail. Actually, I am back on the trail tonight, on the SHT, camping less than a mile from where my interview is tomorrow.

With that, I will keep everyone updated on this ever turning and winding journey of mine. Thank you for loving me, and my children, and for keeping us in your prayers and thoughts.

With so much love, light, and gratitude,





Tiny Pink Sock

My beloved RayRay,
I found your tiny pink sock under my bed today. With all my might I am trying to keep it together and just take it as a sign of my undying love for you. Who knew such a tiny item as your little pink sock could awake such deep emotion in my soul. I feel your love and spirit everyday and it keeps me going. Heck, I’m not going to lie, I would do nearly anything to put that sock back on your tiny earthly foot. For now, I hold it close to my heart and cry tears of joy that I had the opportunity to once put this on
your beautiful little foot. I have to accept the fact that now, those adorable tiny toes and feet were not meant for me to gush over, or were never meant to walk on Earth. My comfort comes from faith that they have baby girl John Deere socks for you in heaven and as a farmer’s daughter, you wear them with love. Miss you baby girl.


Avocados in Heaven, Periods from Hell

Happy 6 month birthday my sweet baby girl! Today she would have started this thing called eating, or more specifically, ingesting other food sources other than my breastmilk. I can just imagine her messy and smiling sweet potato orange or avocado green face. It was such a bittersweet moment when Parker started solids as it was a first major step in him becoming his own person, a step toward being an independent person and an individual. Granted, he did nurse, along with eating solids of course, until he was 26 months or so. Right up until I got pregnant with Rayella and even after. I had to wean him after she passed because it was too painful of a reminder, that milk was meant for my baby girl. This is the first couple of months in the past 3 years that I have not been pregnant or breastfeeding. It is an odd feeling of physical independence when I have either been gestating or lactating for so long.

Most of the time a woman’s body does not start ovulating again as long as they are exclusively breastfeeding their baby. Aunt Flo does not usually return until baby starts solids and breast feeds less. Apparently this is a form of nature’s own child planning. With Parker, my cycle did not return until he was 10 months or so. Since I am no longer gestating or lactating, my cycle came back with a vengeance. I am going to be real honest here. It fucking sucks! Not only do periods just suck in general, but this time around my cycle is just a reminder that my baby girl is no longer here. Not only that, but it just makes me sad that I am still having cycles, but still just a baron woman after my tubal ligation.

Hormones and Crystal have never been on the same page. My doctor put me on birth control pills when I was 12 due to erratic PMS behavior the week before my period. Over time I have learned to keep track of my cycles and be more mindful THAT week, avoiding any major conflicts or making any irrational decisions. The week leading up to Mother’s Day I was PMS’ing hardcore and it just made that week and day so much more worse emotionally had it not been during THAT fucking week. Then, it ended up being 4 days late. Last time I was 4 days late was when I figured out that I was pregnant with Rayella. The thought of being pregnant again, (miraculously as it does happen after a tubal ligation, very rare, but does happen, just as getting pregnant with an IUD, figured it would have been my luck), led my neurotic AND very hormonal PMS’ing brain into crazy mode. I felt just about every human emotion there is- and some that I even invented in that moment. So I put my worry to rest, took a pregnancy test, it was very much negative. Shortly after Aunt Flo arrived, fashionably late (bitch).

Perhaps today, on Rayella’s 6 month birthday, she will be served with a grand buffet of the finest baby puree up in heaven, or whatever beautiful place her beautiful soul resides. Today, just as every single day, I miss her badly. As these endless amount of milestones she never had the chance to accomplish run through my head, I feel pain. However, I know, and now have the faith whichever beautiful place that her soul is residing at now, is far more beautiful and deserving for such an amazing soul as Rayella’s, my forever baby girl.

Mother’s Day: Killed It! (with LOVE)

Yes, I am still alive. If I am alive and breathing and not in some sanitarium, then that must make me believe that YES, I did in fact survive today. Sunday, May 10th, Mother’s Day, 2015. THAT day that was so daunting and even unmentionable in my head even up until a day or two ago. The pain of the dreaded day started a long time ago. It started nearly 9 weeks ago when Rayella flew away.

There was no way I would make it. The unimaginable happened. I lost my precious and beautiful baby girl who I loved with such a fierce, mama bear love. Part of my heart was ripped out of my chest, leaving a gaping wound, that came along with a flesh-eating bacterial infection that is not only resistant to drugs, but downright incurable.

It took rivers of tears and overloads of misplaced aggression unto others, but I did it. I survived. I am here, in the flesh, sound mind and a, yes, peaceful spirit. At the end of the day, all I can do is remember how much more love is in my world, and the entire universe, thanks to my baby girl. My baby girl who left too soon, but left such a gift. The gift of love.

Never in my life did I ever realize the capacity of my heart and of the amount of love inside of me, until the day she was born. Being a Mother automatically sets this capacity significantly and exponentially larger at each one of the births of their children, perhaps even at conception. The notion of loving anything so much ever again is just utterly unfathomable. I wondered this after I got pregnant with Parker, could I ever love THIS baby as much as I loved my firstborn? Wow, was I ever in shock at how much I proved that notion completely upside down. Rayella was a gift. A true bona fide gift of love.

Not only the love I found inside myself, but the love that surrounds me. Not just here in our rural community in North Dakota, but all my family and friends in Minneapolis, Grand Forks, everywhere- from Auntie Deb in Virginia on the East Coast, to old friends out on the West Coast, from complete strangers down in Florida, to complete strangers in Montana, and so many of you from abroad- Singapore, Costa Rica Turkey, Spain, UK, France, to name a few of the numerous countries. There is no other way to describe Rayella’s “Circle of Love” as anything more than a million times of how big you are thinking it is right now.

When I sit back and think of the impact she is having on me, my family and friends, on strangers all over our country and globe…When I think of all the Mothers out there that are hugging and kissing their children today, feeling that feeling of pure relief that YES, my children ARE still here in my arms.It is because of THEM that makes this love possible. My hope is that perhaps all you mothers are hugging and squeezing a bit extra, today and everyday since March 2nd, and everyday foroward- because of, and for, Rayella.

And perhaps you have experienced this pain as well, a loss of one of your children, at any stage throughout pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood, teens, or even as adults, I know you feel the same. Our children left our arms way too soon. It is NOT fair. Some days are impossible. Even the daily mundane activities as brushing your teeth and eating, can feel like impossible feats. I have had days where I needed Tyler to come home early, to help me get through and take care of Parker. And then, some days, you feel guilty for smiling, or god forbid, laughing as hard as you did. Everything is surreal and absolutely nothing feels right. Sometimes you feel as though the pleasure you feel at any moment you will have to pay for later in silent grief because it is a distraction of HER, mourning for her, of remembering her love, her person, and the huge void in my life, in my heart and soul, that really cannot be filled or replaced by A-N-Y-O-N-E or A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

The only thing I can really say to ALL of you, is that throughout these past 9 weeks I have learned that I know there HAS to be some sort of cosmic force to all of this. Some sort of God, or Light, but that hardly does “God or Light” justice. The force that has created us, our souls, this planet, and this universe. It is undoubtedly a force so strong and powerful that we could not even begin to comprehend, and completely driven by LOVE. Not just any love, but a God-like love. Only to be compared, by words in which we humans can comprehend, to the LOVE a Mother feels for her children. Fierce and all powerful LOVE.


Thank you Rayella Kathleen for giving me the gift of being YOUR Mother this Mother’s Day. Even if it was for a mere 3 1/2 months, plus 39 weeks in my womb. The gift of love that you have given and shown me and the world will be YOUR gift every Mother’s Day and everyday of every year. It will give me the warmth from the chill of your absence, for years, or even a lifetime from now. Love you baby girl.

Rayella’s Scrapbook: A Labor of Love

Yesterday I received a package in the mail, inside of the package was a gift I will cherish for the rest of my life. I will let the photos speak for themselves:



20150425_22542520150425_22543320150425_22544220150425_22544920150425_22545720150425_225518Hillary and Barb,
The tears are flowing. They are tears of pure love and gratitude. There are no words adequate enough to describe how absolutely beautiful this scrapbook is you made for me and how it just makes my heart just swell with love. For honoring Rayella’s beautiful little life and the time she spent here on earth with me and her family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This scrapbook is, and will be, one of the most precious labors of love that anyone has done for me. All I feel is love, for you ladies, for Rayella, Parker, Tyler, and everyone in our “circle of love”.

With so much love and gratitude,

Rayella’s Birthday Present for Daddy

It is quite refreshing to have an out-of-the-ordinary “good” day and today was particularly wonderful. Today is my beloved Tyler’s birthday. He and I like to have birthday-weeks instead of just the single birth-days, so this week has been better overall. Not necessarily any less painful, but overall we have been more mindful of being more considerate to each other’s feelings and really made efforts to support one another’s mourning for our daughter. Some days are just impossible to be on the same page grief-wise. It seems like when one person is in their more dark period, the other comes to the light a bit more, and vise-versa. It seems like we should just be able to balance each other out, but it just does not quite work out like that. Sometimes we rely too much on each other for emotional support when in reality, we are both just emotionally exhausted.

But this week has been a better week than most since Rayella left us. It feels like some of the fog has lifted from my head and he and I can communicate on a more rational and empathetic level. Last night I was reading through the feed of a parents of SIDS support group on Facebook when I came across a mother whom had posted a picture of a cake her family made for her son who would have been celebrating his 23rd birthday. Wow. 23 years later and still making birthday cakes. It was one of those surreal moments and my initial thought was, holy crazy. Making cakes for someone that is not with them 23 years later. I thought there was no way I was going to be that insane bereaved mother, especially 23 years down the road. Then I started talking about it to Tyler and voiced my opinion out loud.

After some discussion I felt really awful for thinking that way about a bereaved mother making birthday cakes for 23 years in a row for her son. My heart just sank, thinking that this IS the reality, MY ‘new normal’ that I will eventually have to accept. That 23 years later she will still not be back in my arms. I will forever have part of my heart and soul irreversibly broken. I will be that mom still in the bereaved mother support groups posting pictures of my baby girl’s birthday cakes year after year.  For some reason I just understood perfectly why it would be completely acceptable and possibly therapeutic for her family to celebrate her lost son’s birthday, especially 23 years later. That takes a lot of love.

They keep telling me that time will heal, which I have not found to be truthful thus far, but like I have mentioned before, I am just beginning this life-long journey of living without my daughter, my RayRay. It kills me to think that I would not think that her birthday, even 23 years later, would mean anything less special than her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 15th, 23rd, or beyond. Tyler and I came to the consensus that, as awful and crazy as it may be, that yes, it is OUR reality and that we NEEDED to celebrate and make her birthday cakes, each and every year.

This morning I woke up and had Parker give his special birthday present and card to Tyler before he left for work. It was such a special moment. So the day started off on an especially festive note. Moments after Tyler left for work I received a private message from an old friend, Marie Philippi, who owns the very successful, “Taste of Love Bakery” in St. Paul. She had seen my posting on Facebook about Tyler’s birthday. She said it had her thinking about Rayella and she would really like to make Rayella’s first birthday cake, free of charge. She said, “One of those things I’ve learned really helps parents in your situation but that might be hard to ask a bakery to make. And you shouldn’t have to make one yourself! I’d be honored.”

Seriously? The only time I had ever given Rayella’s birthday cakes any actual thought was the night before, just hours before she sent me that message. I told her the story of the previous night’s discussion regarding the birthday cakes and how unreal this was. I told her that Rayella must have whispered in her ear that she wanted HER to make her 1st birthday cake (especially after hearing her mommy & daddy deciding it was a good idea to do so!).

You just cannot make this stuff up. Marie then told me she was totally okay if I wanted to make my own cake for Rayella. I could not help but just laugh my ass off. I sent her a picture of my extraordinary baking skills, as shown below:


Needless to say, I believe with my entire heart (a very strong statement for this agnostic girl) that Marie was given some sort of divine message from Rayella that she was the person who needed to step up and be the person to make her 1st birthday cake. Marie said I just sent her into tears and she felt so honored and amazed and believed that Rayella did in fact work through her. In fact, Marie said, “I’ll make you her cake if you want all the way til shes having a heavenly 50th and more <3” Just WOW. The fact that it is ON Tyler’s birthday that this amazing moment happened on gave us so much joy for the rest of the day. It was almost like Rayella’s way of saying she wanted us to make today a good one, and that she IS indeed close to us in spirit, everyday. It was Rayella’s birthday present to her Daddy.

These are the moments that keep me going day after day. Knowing that she is there, somewhere, in spirit, watching over her mama & dad, protecting our hearts and my souls from the darkness of her death and absence. In doing so, I am able to keep my head above water in order to keep her love, memory, and spirit alive the best I can. I am able to sit down at the computer and write our story, knowing that my writing may be helping other bereaved mother’s get by, moment by moment, breath by breath. Her little life meant, and still means, the world to me, and I would hate myself if I did not do my absolute best in honoring her the way she deserves. I can lay in bed and cry about how unfair it is that she is not here, or will not ever be here to eat her own birthday cake, but I know now beyond a shadow of a doubt she will be there in spirit celebrating with us, each and every single year for as long as I am alive.


Mama loves you so much baby girl! Thanks for the amazing birthday present for Daddy. We are so excited to celebrate the day you came into this world with an amazing birthday cake from an amazing person.


Neglected Appreciation

Tonight I have a burning guilt weighing heavy on my heart. So many people have gone far out of their way for Tyler, Parker, and I during this whole nightmare of losing RayRay. The love and compassion I have felt from, literally, the thousands of people who have reached out is nothing short of amazing. Right now I am so sorry to everybody. For not calling back, texting back, PM’ing back, writing back, or responding back to any way you have reached out. This includes the lengthy list of ‘thank-you’ cards I still need to send out. Honestly I was getting them done fast and furiously, but for some reason I needed a break.

I can list excuse after excuse of why I have not completed said actions, but in the end, there is no excuse that is good enough, even if it is a true, bona fide reason, nothing excuses my lack of saying thank-you or neglecting to take a few moments to respond with my appreciation. I am not someone to take writing and sending out ‘thank-you’ cards lightly, especially for the occasion they were intended for, for the loss of my beautiful baby girl Rayella. Emotionally and physically I am overly-exhausted and these days everything takes a ton of effort. Heavy grief takes a tole on a girl. Let me tell you. Not that any of the ‘thank-you’s I have managed to send out thus far are any less appreciative, but some of the most important ‘thank-you’s that still need to get done I have saved for last because I simply cannot find the words that need to be said for all your love and kindness. Not only was that the reason I felt the need to skip the generic ‘thank-you’ cards we received from the funeral home and make a special, more personalized version, but because my baby girl deserves nothing short of beauty, grace, and honor.

Tonight I just wanted to be clear on this and please, please, please, do no think for a moment that if you have not received a response or a thank-you card from me, it is not because I have taken your love, sympathy, and compassion for granted. In all seriousness, the truth is that I would be in the deepest, darkest black hole if it was not for each and every one of you who has shown us this type of love and support. Like I have said before, and I will continue to say it for the rest of my life, Rayella’s circle of love is amazingly large and beautiful and is what keeps me keeping on when it really feels impossible.

So much love, light, and appreciation to each and everyone one of you.

THANK YOU x100,000,000.

A Journey With No Destination or End


It feels like it has been ages and ages since I last held Rayella in my arms, but at the same time, it really only has been about a month and half. Learning to live without my baby girl is going to be a life-long process. They say, “the journey of grief has no destination and no end,” and in all relativity, I just got on the highway with an indefinite amount of miles to travel. The journey feels so daunting, and if let myself think too hard about it, that is when I start withering back into the darkness. It has become apparent to myself that I am coming out of the shock and denial stage of grief, and every day is becoming harder and harder as I let myself face the reality. I can assure you that I am not feeling hopeless, but if there is a cave of hope, pretty sure I am only a couple levels above that. Hopeless that my baby girl is REALLY gone? Yes. I get that. But hopeless that I cannot continue with my life, certainly moments can be far worse than others, but in general there IS hope. The main source of that hope comes from the fact that I hold on to the love I had for her, and because of her, I must continue, even it if means tip-toeing through life some days, I will.

Lately I have a few people reach out to make sure I was okay, which certain people do on a regular basis, but the past couple days have been especially concerning to some. My main response, and the only honest answer is that this is just a day by day process. Their main concern was that I have not written a blog post in, wow, 11 days apparently. I knew it had been a while, but I did not think that an entire 11 days have gone by without doing THIS, my writing therapy. Many friends and family have told me that is their way of “checking up on me”. Interesting. This writing experience has been, in a way, my way of checking up on myself as well. Not only can I really examine my feelings while I put them into words, it is a way of self-monitoring and being self-accountable to my emotions, mental state, and, no doubt the present reality. It does feel “right” to be sitting back at my computer again, doing what has really helped me the most, writing. Writing is my sustenance through this never-ending journey of bereavement.

Saturday and Sunday were spent down in “The Cities” (a term I loathe, if anyone says “The Cities” while they are actually in “The Cities”, chances are they are not from “The Cities) (& yep, sometimes I can come off as a stuck-up city bitch, but growing up on Fremont and Dowling and a number of other Northside residences for a number of impressionable years of my youth, then as an adult, SE Minneapolis/U of MN campus, Powderhorn, Whittier, and Longfellow neighborhoods- will do that to a girl.) People often ask me if I feel “safer” where I am living now, versus the inner-city, but quite honestly, I feel much more anxious and scared out here in Farmville, ND. My closest neighbors are, I dunno, maybe half mile on either direction of us. If something happened, god forbid, and I scream, “HELP”, chances are no one will hear me. In all of my Minneapolis “dive” apartments, I felt very comfortable knowing at least 100+ people reside in each square block of those dense neighborhoods. Someone would hear me and save me. For the love of all logic, low and behold, the worst nightmare of my life happened up here in the little “safe” small town. My point beins is that the fact of the matter is that you just never know WHEN, or WHERE, the most fucked up shit of your life will happen.

Since Rayella passed, I have taken 3 trips out-of-town, 2 of them back home to, “The Cities”. Leaving our home, Rayella’s home, has been really difficult each time. The dread of leaving her stuff, her nursery (which, yes, is still 100% intact from the last day she was here), her ashes, her unwashed clothes that still linger of her delicious smell of spit-up and breast milk, and every material thing she has left behind to keep her spirit present in our home. Every other trip out-of-town has felt okay, in other words, not entirely right, nothing feels right, but I have managed to keep composure when it has been socially acceptable. This past weekend was not awful, but not enough to keep that god-forsaken faucet that is my tear ducts, under control. Being someone with a history of depression and anxiety, I have had a good amount of practice keeping those melt downs private and in my own time. This trip I even had Parker with me, and knowing his presence is like a godsend when it comes to keeping my emotions “in-check” with his amazing little zest for life and lively spirit, I still just could not really shake the deep sadness.

The first stop on my 2 day trip was my nephew’s 1st birthday party. Honestly, I was really excited to see my entire immediate family under a celebratory occasion versus the last time we were all together, the weekend of Rayella’s funeral. We arrived, and without even really thinking about it at all, all I could see was my niece Brooke, her beauty, her beautiful big blue eyes that remind me of RayRay’s, long blonde hair that RayRay was almost certain to have, her amazingly adorable little girl laugh. Her collection of pink and everything “little girl”- clothes, toys, you name it. Honestly, I did not prepare myself for that, for anything really. Triggers come, almost every other second, but these days- usually- I can just smile and push the pain aside until a more “appropriate” opportunity to let it out. Then, really again, without thinking twice, I scooped up my little nephew to give him big birthday hugs and kisses. His little body, his baby soft skin, and those big kissable cheeks, his little smile…

It only took a few moments and I lost it. I had to have someone take him from me, quickly, so I could go hide in the bathroom and sob. On the inside I really just wanted to run, to drive off, leave the party, to be pissed off that RayRay will never have a 1st birthday, that she will never have the chance to be that little girl, have a loud little girl giggle, have long beautiful hair, and have all that oh-so-feminine little girl stuff. The stuff that used to make me cringe, all the pink and princesses, but the stuff that I had grown to love and appreciate, because there is just something absolutely precious about a baby girl. Not that baby boys are not as precious or lovable, and I am not even sure how to describe it, but to be a woman, who used to be one of those little girls, brings some sort of special bond to her own baby girl like no other.

I went back out to the crowd, reluctant to look anyone with my glazed red swollen eyes of mine, feeling down and a bit guilty about being such a downer. But, really, I got hugs from everyone and I think everyone really understood. I just had to be very mindful to just keep breathing. I stayed at the party for Parker, for RayRay, and for my family. I did my best to remember that RayRay was there in spirit, in my heart, in all of my family’s hearts, and I was not the only one hurting. It occurred to me that at that moment I was among the inner-circle of RayRay’s “circle of love,” the place where the Universe meant for me to be. I allowed myself to receive and give love and joy, to smile and to laugh. Of course, once again, I decided to choose the light over the darkness, because that is what my beloved baby girl RayRay would have wanted.