Soul Cycle

Monday, August 11, 2014

When you find something that helps with handling such terrible grief you tell everyone you can. When you find something you love you scream it from the mountain top, right? You try to get everyone on board, because "You guys! I found this amazing thing and I'm telling you it is more than just what it seems...it is a million times more." That is how I felt after my first Soul Cycle class. It was about 4 weeks after I lost my son and my friend Elizabeth was inviting everyone to try Soul Cycle with her. I thought to myself, why not. It might make me tired enough to where I can actually fall asleep tonight. I remember thinking something about endorphins and endorphins are supposed to make you happy...I was desperate to feel anything but what I was feeling. And so I signed up. 

I fell in love. 

Soul Cycle is not a cure. Most definitely not. But what it does, is forces you to clear your mind and free anything that is weighing you down. It brings out so many emotions for me. I let myself feel everything, I keep all the good and toss all the negative aside. I cycle myself to a better me and for forty five minutes I can throw my entire being in that damn bike. I can be angry and take it out on the bike. I can be happy and dance on the bike. I can be sad, cry and scream on the bike. 
At the end I feel refreshed. I no longer feel defeated. My soul feels strong and for a few hours after I feel happy and OK with how my life is at this moment. 

When the Soul Cycle in Pasadena reached out to me and asked if I would like to host a ride for family and friends I jumped at the chance. You don't have to be going through something terrible to enjoy Soul Cycle. You can be the happiest and still benefit from this class. Anything you feel you take to Soul Cycle and you let it turn you into a better person. I wanted to share that with everyone. I wanted to share how amazing this work out can really be. It can be different for each and every one of us. So, I extended the invite to all my lovely Instagram friends too. We were blown away by the response! 

The night was something else. It was all things amazing and incredible to meet so many new people who have had our son on their hearts. The entire time my husband and I felt so blessed and we really did feel Ryan amongst us. All of it was beautiful and I hope to do it again in the future. 



One thing though, taking photos of people pre and post work out isn't that glamorous. However, everyone was so extremely happy and in the end we were all giving each other sweaty hugs. 


Red balloon sign in sheet the lovely Soul Cycle girls made for us. 






Huge HUGE thank you to these girls. Everyone who works at Soul Cycle Pasadena is beyond nice. 
They made the event seamless and I love them. 
I guess endorphins really do make you happy...


We also had the best after work out treat on the planet. Thank you to Sweet Clementine's Popsicles for making us delicious Lemon Buttermilk popsicles to enjoy after working our butts off. 
I hope everyone loved them. Also I wish I could always have one after working out!


Dan and I wouldn't be where we are right now with our incredible family. We are thank God everyday for blessing us with such strong support. For our family we are grateful. 





Thank you to all the sweet souls who came to the event. Thank you for coming and thank you for becoming our friends through this pain we are experiencing. We are grateful and so happy to have shared this wonderful night with you all. 


One Year Does A Difference

Monday, August 4, 2014

It was one of those perfect days. When you wake up and the sun is on your side. Your eyes sort of flutter open and sleepy stretches easily flow through your limbs. You have no care in the world, except to make sure everything is packed before check out.

Stumbling down to the lobby for a latte in last nights concert tee and sweats I felt light and happy even. I hadn't woken up like this in three months. I ordered a large iced coffee and a cookie for later. Taking my time up the elevator back to our room, I let myself think about this time a year ago. This same day last year I woke up happy, excited. The sun was on my side. My eyes fluttered open and sleepy stretches flowed through my limbs. I had not a care in the world, except to make sure everything was ready before I walked down the aisle.

On our one year anniversary Dan and I sit and look the same. But, oh how we have changed. Most of the change happened in the last three months...and still is happening. We sit heavy with grief however, light gleams through. That light shows in our smiles and our strong desire to live even with these holes in our hearts.

Back in our hotel room. I climbed back into bed with my latte and cookie, listening to Dan's soft snores. Every two or three minutes his arm would twitch. A sign of deep sleep for him. I sat there thinking about all we have endured and tears came. Tears fell with every thought. I thought about the three of us having the best time at "Mommy and Daddy's party!", that is how Ryan referred to our wedding day. And it was a party. I let myself think 'what if'. Which is this slippery slope and it gets me into trouble mostly. Because I'll sit and think of impossible 'what ifs' and make myself sick with sadness.
But really, what if Ryan was still here?
Then I stopped, and thought come on. You are here now, eat your damn cookie and relax. And in that moment a sense of sweet calm washed over me and my brain began to think about all that we will encounter, rather than what we have endured thus far.

All we will encounter together. There is something extremely beautiful about our situation and even in the depths of darkness it can be seen. Our life and all the greatness we will encounter can be seen. Not specifics, no, those are still being worked out by God and Ryan. Those two are diligently planning our great path. So, ok sorry, I guess it can be felt rather than seen at this point. Yes, because I can feel it. I can feel that there is great coming for us. We can feel it.

When Dan wakes up there is this unspoken "I know this is painful, but we can at least celebrate us today" in the air. There were lots of hugs and kisses. Happy Anniversary whispered back and forth. We know Ryan is jumping all around us. We feel that too. And then it was as if Ryan was speaking through Dan as he said "I have a gift for you...but first lets find donuts!"
And my heart swelled because here I am feeling all these feelings of sad and yet I feel like I won the jackpot at the same time.

In the end, one year does a difference make. And that difference has sent us on a journey we didn't want to take. However, here we are falling in love all over again, with more strength than you can imagine. More strength than we even knew about.


Our perfect day, brought to you by my terrific selfie skills...


We stayed at the Ace in Downtown Los Angeles. The coffee and black and white cookies were the best. Although the rooftop pool and bar were also the best. It was the perfect place for our quick stay. 


The Rockefeller in Manhattan Beach is beyond delicious. If you are ever in the area...eat there. 
Go for the donuts...



After donuts went to the beach. Took two naps and one swim in between.



We had big plans to head out for a fancy steakhouse dinner. But that second wave of energy never hit. Plus we are creatures of habit and were more starving than wanting romance. Dinner was a big feast at PF Changs. We both had wet hair and sand between our toes. 

Cheers To One Year




Learning To Be Two

Friday, August 1, 2014

With our one year wedding anniversary upon us, it feels as if we have really been put to the test. We have been through the absolute best and the absolute worst this past year. After this first year we stand here with tear stained cheeks, holding hands ready for whatever else God and Ryan have in store for us.

Although we always refer to us as a family of three, the truth is physically we are two.
There is nothing I hate more than trying to understand, physically it is just us two. 
I do not understand. I am trying every day. 

The last three months have been awful and good. Ugly and beautiful. Happy and always sad. The last three months Dan and I have been learning a lot about ourselves and each other. We have been coping together. We have been learning to be two, just us two.
This grief seems to be all about balance at this point. At least that is what I am slowly figuring out. The two of us are balancing between all the different emotions we feel through out the day.
Day by day.

I don't know what the future holds for us, but I know in my heart and soul it is going to be great. Better than great. It has to be.

I can't say for certain that we won't go through more bad times, but I know in my heart and soul the good times will out weigh the bad.

What I DO know for sure is that there is no one I would rather do life with than my husband Dan.
We may have been dealt the most crappiest hand known to all, but we are still playing our cards.
Still surviving, still together, still in love.

We are learning to be two
... with our third above us. 

---

Happy One Year To Us










Grateful In Between Sadness and Anger

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I go days with feeling too exhausted to do much but just lay on the couch. Most days I force myself out of bed and into clothes. The amount of strength it takes to go to work everyday is something I can barely explain. A lot of times the pain feels so physical, like I can actually feel my heart hurting or my head so full of fog I can't see clear.
Some days are good and maybe easy. Some days are hard and definitely terrible.
Each morning is a toss up.
Over the past few days I have realized a new feeling though. This overwhelmingly warm feeling of gratitude. I seriously feel grateful. It feels weird saying this because I lost a beautiful piece of me and here I stand now grateful?  Is that even possible?

I feel grateful when I look into my husbands eyes and hug him tight.
I feel grateful when my family makes me laugh and I'm able to act silly.
I feel grateful for my friends, new friends and the strangers who pray for us.
I feel grateful for the time I had with my son.
I feel grateful to be a mother. A special mother. Ryan's mother.
I feel grateful for the future.

God has proven to me over the past weeks there are still beautiful things to be grateful for. At first I couldn't see it. My eyes so clouded with anger and disbelief of this new life. Now I can see through the cracks of pain the beauty of all to be grateful for. Trust me...it is a slow process. But I feel the power working within me.

I will tell you, being grateful is the hardest thing to be in a time like this. It is so easy to be angry all the time. I do still feel angry. I feel sad always. I understand that the feeling of sadness will never go away. I feel heart broken when faced with other mothers who get to hold their babies. However, it is worth trying to feel grateful in the midst of anger and sadness. Because it is my faith and gratitude that is keeping me alive.
At least that is what I believe.
This feeling of gratefulness is proof there will be more, much more for my husband Dan and I.

This is all new to me...Writing it out helps me understand it better. 
I am trying. I am trying so hard to explore my grief and really feel all there is to feel.
Thank you for listening friends.





---

Recently, my husband Dan and I have been up to really nothing. We are staying with my family and learning everyday how to get up, get dressed and live with out our son. We have been working a lot and planning a few getaways. We are dreaming of the future and allowing ourselves to think about what exactly does our life look like now ... physically just us two. We are learning how to work with this balance between immense sadness and hope. We are starting to feel the limbo between our old life and our new one just around the corner. There is no rush, but lots of dreams. All dreams I believe powered by our son and his want to see us happy and strong.

I share on Instagram almost daily, about what it is I'm feeling or doing. Below is everything we do in between. Below is how we are getting through each and every day.

Life For Us Right Now Looks Like...
Lots of movie dates with buttered popcorn and sour candies.
Lunch dates while we are at work. Putting work aside and escaping for an hour with my husband is the greatest relief.
Jumping in the pool and letting the sun kiss our skin.
Lots of gym time and letting our bodies feel strong with exercise.
Forcing ourselves to work, and learn the ropes of living with this hole in our hearts.
Late nights watching funny SNL clips or action movies.
Very little sleep actually, sleep still isn't easy.
Helpful therapy sessions followed by ice cream cones.
Family dinners every night and deep hearty laughs that make us feel normal.







Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lately, I have had zero desire to bake or do much of anything in the kitchen. I think about how I always had Ryan with me in the kitchen and we would make anything and everything. Now, it is just me in the kitchen and if I am bring honest ... It sucks being alone in there. I miss him grabbing my legs, his chatter and his little voice always asking to taste and help. I miss him dragging in his foot stool from the bathroom to get a better look. And every once in a while when he couldn't care less about what I was making but still wanted to be in the kitchen, he would bring in his toys and play around my feet. Then he would find something else interesting or daddy would come home and they would go play outside. Leaving me in the kitchen, and I would step on a car or plane toy and scream because stepping on tiny toys hurt! I would yell for Ryan to come pick up his toys and remind him if he is going to play with something else, then you have to clean up this mess first. 
My heart hurts. So bad. I miss being a mom. I miss my son. 

A few weeks ago a stranger from New York sent me a giant box. You know those white boxes with iconic black lettering on it? When I say giant I mean giant. So, my whole family is there because it is big and I'm saying out loud I didn't order anything from here! I undo the ribbon and there is a tiny, tiny card. When I say tiny I mean tiny. I open it and read, my family yelling "what does it say?!".
It says...
Jacqui,
We don't know each other, but your story has touched me so much. 
Please keep baking. Ryan is so proud of you. 
HUGS all the way from NYC. 
The Robitaille Family.

In that moment I started to cry. I cry from reading three words 'Please keep baking'. Then I pulled the tissue and bubble wrap and tears came out so hot and fast. My whole family was teared up and really we all were floored by the immense love this stranger had showered us with. Inside the giant box was everything you could ever want while baking. The gadgets were nothing compared to her simple note that urged me to step back into the kitchen, with out my son, and continue to do something I love. Their hugs from a far gave me courage and showed their faith in me. It was all nothing short of amazing and in that moment it was everything I needed. Because right now I am living moment to moment. Some are really bad, some are violent and nasty, some are fine and some are full of love and glimmering hope. So this hopeful moment led me back into the kitchen and I decided to make these. Probably the worst thing for you because they are stuffed with margarine and sugar...but really who cares. 

---

One of my favorite things to eat is cinnamon rolls and making them from scratch is really rewarding. Plus, if you have overnight guests and bake them cinnamon rolls to enjoy in the morning you become a rock star. So, I'll teach you how to be a baking rock star ... 

Brown Sugar Pecan Cinnamon Rolls



What You Need
- one package of dry yeast
-one cup warm water
- 1/4 cup sugar
-pinch of salt
-2 tablespoons of melted margarine (for the dough mixture)
-1/3 cup margarine (for the pecan mixture)
-2-3 tablespoons softened margarine (to spread on the dough after rolling out)
-1 egg
-4 cups flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 tablespoons corn syrup
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons cinnamon

What You Do
Start the day before you want to eat your cinnamon rolls. The dough has to rest at least overnight before you roll it out and bake it. 
- Use a mixer and in your mixing bowl add the package of dry yeast with the warm water. The warm water helps the yeast bloom and this whole process should smell like your making soft pretzels. Which might throw you off, but stay focused because at the end of all these steps will be a sweet reward. 
- Once the yeast is some what dissolved add the 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of softened margarine and one egg. Mix these until fully incorporated. 
- Now, slowly mix in the flour and pinch of salt. Adding a little at a time so you don't make a flour mess and so the dough mixes smooth with no flour lumps. 
- Be sure to not over mix your dough. Once the dough is smooth and slightly sticky stop the mixer. 
- Coat a separate large bowl with cooking spray and place to the side. 
- Spray one of your hands with cooking spray and pull the wet dough out of your mixing bowl and place in the large coated bowl. 
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator over night. You can make this dough up to four days in advance and just let it hang out in the refrigerator. Any longer than that and the dough will go bad. 

- After you let your dough rest, it is time to roll it out. 
- Coat a large surface area with flour and place your dough in the center. Use flour to kneed it into a ball shape. Coat your rolling pin with flour and begin rolling out your dough. This part always gives me trouble because it isn't like cookie dough where you can roll it and it stays still. The yeast in this dough gives it a rubber band feel and it takes a lot of muscle to roll it all over and have it stay rolled out. If you have any tips on rolling out dough please tell me. 
- Once your dough is rolled out mix the 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.
- Rub your dough down with 2-3 tablespoons of softened margarine and then sprinkle on the sugar and spice mixture all over. 
- Once coated, begin rolling your dough. 


- Once tightly rolled up, use a knife and cut the edges off. 
- Now, leave the dough for a second and in a bowl mix 2 tablespoons of melted margarine, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 1 cup chopped pecans. Pour this mixture into the pan you will bake your cinnamon rolls in. Make sure to coat the pans with cooking spray first. Spread out the sticky pecans so it creates a bottom layer on your pan. 
- This dough usually makes around 10-13 cinnamon rolls. Depending on how large you cut them. Once you cut your rolls you can see how big of a pan you will need. 
- Place your cinnamon rolls on top of the pecan layer and cover with a damp paper towel. 
- Leave the covered rolls for about an hour. You will see the rolls rise and get bigger.



- Once you have waited for the rolls to rise. Bake them for about 30-45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. They will be golden brown and bubbly once they are ready to come out. 
- While still hot, place a large plate over the rolls. Protect your hands with pot holders and flip the rolls onto the large plate. Use a butter knife to spread the gooey brown sugar pecan mixture all over and between the rolls. 
- Serve them warm and enjoy these sticky sweet treats!



Thank you to the Robitaille Family and to every single one of you here with me. Helping me through each one of my moments. 

Back To Work

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Its like those little butterflies you got the night before going back to school. When you have been away for awhile, your skin is sun kissed and maybe you grew a bit. All your new school things are being readied and you lay out the new outfit for your first day back. You think, this could be a chance to re-make myself. I'm a new person. So, you set your alarm for the first time in weeks. Enough time planned to fully get ready and be early even. Nerves rock you to sleep as you envision tomorrow's debut. You see yourself walking into those walls with a shaky smile. This will be the first time, since the last time everyone saw you. You think to yourself, "I better make this good."
--
Walking into my first day back at work was a little bit nerve wracking. Ok, a ton bit nerve wracking. I had this heavy want to be just as good as I was. I felt a strong need to pick back up from where I left off. From where I left off just six weeks ago. Within my first steps inside I realized very quickly that, for me to be able to pick back up from where I left off, would be impossible. Right then, in that moment on my first day, I felt so completely out of it. I felt like my head was all foggy. I felt heartbroken to learn that yes, work has moved on with out Ryan. I felt slices of anger mixed with disbelief. Why am I back here? Can I actually do this? This all was coursing through my body even before I stepped into the office. So, I promised to be nice to myself. I forced myself to ease into each of my tasks inch by inch. Much like slipping slowly into an ice cold pool. Submerging each part of my body limb by limb.

The support waiting for me at work was immense. I consider myself extremely lucky to fall back into a workplace such as mine. My girls in one word are, incredible. There was a handmade 'Welcome Back Jacqui' banner, my favorite treats including a dozen donuts and a beautiful journal they kept while I was gone. The journal is filled with love letters from them to me, encouraging words, artwork and words of remembering Ryan. Forever. It was all nothing short of amazing and I let myself feel their love and compassion. Those first few days I let their love and compassion fuel me. Because with out it I would have been to weak to continue. I'm sure of it.

On the second and third day I was having to learn a few new things that were installed while I was away. Before I left I was on top of my game. I was quick to learn and quick to please. Now with each step it felt as if I was knee deep in mud. Learning everything all over again made my skin crawl because I used to be so good. Another mountain I had to climb was seeing other mothers. The place is  full of browsing moms pushing strollers, moms trying to contain their toddlers and moms to be. All the days long I am faced with this. Please don't get me wrong, because being a mom is a blessing and wonderful and every good thing you can possibly imagine. Believe me, I am a mom. However, for a mother such as myself, seeing all the moms in action is intense. A little too intense at times. My smiles mask my screams and tears. I feel jealous, but mostly heartbroken. Heartbroken, because my heart is literally broken with out my son.

On the last day I felt fed-up. I felt so full of frustration that one more bite would send me to the bathroom sick. Currently, I feel worried that I may never be able to overcome this. Worried that I may never have a sliver of what my life used to be like. Work for me is something I can hold onto. It was a part of me in the past and I'm trying to make it a part of me now. I think the key word here is, trying. I'm trying just six weeks after my life came crashing down. Trying to make sense of my life as I know it now. I believe I'll get there at some point. Hopefully, God grants more patience on my co-workers as I try to work through this.

So, what do I do? What would you do?
For now I am heading back for week two.
Praying it will be a little better.
That is all I expect.
Just a little better than my first week.

--

I found this quote on Pinterest via Moorea Seal during my first week back and it really hit me. As much as I am trying to be strong and make tiny sense of what is happening, I'm truly going through hell. Every day my husband and I struggle. Life right now is absolute hell with out our son. Sometimes I feel like people forget just how awful this is. That even though we smile and speak, inside we feel all kinds of hot anger and sadness. Everyone gets to move on with their life and their children. Let it be known, the pain we feel is downright excruciating.

Even so, we must still more forward. 






Hope For The New Me

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it's what's in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will."
 -my favorite quote from the movie 'Hope Floats'. 

Dan and I have our good days and we have our bad days. We even have those really awful days when we can't breath between sobs. When our family just holds us because their words don't make a difference. And at the end of those really awful days we are left broken, but in some weird way we feel pieces of us being put back together in a new way.
After the initial shock of my son's death died down and panic set in, I remember frantically asking my family "Will I still be me, will I still be funny?". Most told me yes of course. A few who knew the truth told me no. They said that I will be become a new me.
Two weeks after we lost Ryan I found myself wanting to go into work and see my girls. All my girls at work are my friends and through this difficult time they have become a type of family that I feel so blessed to have. I sat in the office and cried with my boss Hanah. She cried with me. She made me laugh a bit, but she also gave me some insight. There was a break in our cries and conversation. It was quiet and she blurted out "I can't wait to meet my new friend!".  I looked at her and I remember thinking, what is she saying? What does she mean? I thought for a second she was trying to tell me she was meeting a new girl that was coming to work for us. Then she explained that she couldn't wait to see me come out of this as a stronger woman. Hanah told me through her smile and tears, she couldn't wait to see me become more bad ass than ever. It all made me laugh, and then it stuck with me. It gave me immense hope and I've been clung to it ever since.
Each time I break down, I let myself have it. I relish the moments where I can't stop crying. Where I can't seem to see straight and all I think are negative, nasty thoughts about why this happened. I let myself have these dark moments for one simple reason.

Hope. 

I have to hope that after I fall apart, I will be re-built into a stronger woman. I will be re-built with a hole in my heart, but able to live with the absence. I will never not be Ryan's mother. I will just be a new version of Ryan's mother. A more wise and patient version filled with grace, everlasting hope and immense strength. That is not to say I wasn't all those things prior to loosing my son. However, I have to believe those qualities and more will be reinstalled within me. These qualities I hope will shed light on not only my life but others as well.
It was scary at first to learn that no, absolutely not, will I be the same as I was. Hell, it is still scary! I've gotten to know and love me for the last 29 years. I loved me. I loved being Ryan's mother. As I say good bye to the old me I am frightened. I'll be scared for a while. But, I do feel a sliver of comfort knowing that I will become a new me. In Hanah's words "a new friend".

A new wife.
A new sister.
A new daughter.
And please God, oh please I pray to be...
A new mom.

The end of my son's physical being is sad. It has left my husband and I stripped raw.
The beginning of our life with out Ryan is scary. It has my husband and I terrified, holding each other.
But it is the middle that counts. The middle being the 3 1/2 years we had with our son. The middle giving us strength and hope that we will be that happy and more one day. While Ryan watches proudly from above.

We hope to be re-built and to have happy days come soon.
I hope to see and love the new me.

---


These photos are from BlogShop. It was the first thing I did by myself, for myself and I had a really great time. Here is to learning about me all over again....I hope you stick around and help me figure it all out. 











 

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