I began my journey in the Fall of 2015 when I stopped perming my hair. This was my second time attempting to go natural but this time I was more determined than before because I realized there was more on the line than I initially thought. I had become conscious about the images of beauty that I was portraying for my daughter. I was asking her to embrace her afro and natural curls while I was taming and stripping my own. She was the catalyst for a monumental change.
On my first attempt at going natural, I gave up a few months into the process because dealing with my roots was “too hard”. This time around, I believe that posting my hair intentions on Facebook in addition to Jayda as a motivator, were the factors that contributed to my sticktoitiveness. Not that anyone was keeping track or anything but it filled me with a sense of accountability.
I finally cut off the permed ends, Fall 2016 and since I am now approaching the three-year mark of having natural hair growth, I’ve compiled some before, in between and current pictures to celebrate the milestone. Enjoy!
Hooked on that creamy crack
Lots of braids, Bantu knots, and puffy roots
I didn’t go the big chop route which at the time felt like I was cheating myself from a full experience but the end result is the same: volume, health, and length.
I’m still learning my hair and figuring out what products, oils, and regimes work for it best. I am currently leaning towards Shea Moisture’s Low Porosity line and Argon Oil. I am mostly low maintenance. I have wash hour, not wash day and I do my best to deep condition when I remember. I’ve tried making my own hair masks with fruits and vegetables but the effort didn’t seem to match the results I was getting. I often find that doing less with my hair works just as well as doing the most in terms of helping me to achieve my goals.
Italy was everything I expected, wanted and needed! Going into the experience I knew that I was desperate for nature and the idea of a retreat was ideal. Visiting Italy had always been on my bucket list as far as I could remember. Before my brother or I were born, my mother spent years living in Italy and that is where she got the nickname: Baci, which everyone called her, friends and family alike. Her nieces and nephews called her Titi Baci and my daughter currently calls her Grandma Baci. I even have that name tattooed on my body, twice. In Italian, Baci means “kisses”. She was given the name by someone who I would later know as Big Judi.
I was excited to interview Big Judi for the interview project I’ve been working on and I knew I wanted to do so before visiting Italy. Big Judi came to my house the day before my flight. After noticing her marijuana socks, I asked her if she wanted to partake in any cannabis activities and with socks like those I was not surprised with her response. We lit up and began talking about how and where she first met my mom. Shortly after getting started, Big Judi asked if it would be ok for her to lay down and a bit later Rick drove her home. The interview itself wasn’t as concentrated with information as I would have hoped but we promised to get together again so that she could share more. Before she left, she gifted me with a small white pillow that was used at my parent’s wedding. I am thrilled to have received this just before my own wedding and plan to use it as well.
Big Judi may not have shared much yet but she got my mind ready in a voicemail she left, just as I was boarding my plane. Take a listen…
I was traveling with my friend Patria. In addition to wanting this trip for very personal and self-involved reasons, I was also happy to have time to spend with Patria, outside of wedding planning which is currently running my life and is the topic of most conversations I have with people. I considered this trip, among many other things to be a pre-wedding-friend-honeymoon.
The flight was smooth, as I slept nearly the entire eight-hour direct flight to Rome. After landing, Patria and I met with the retreat coordinator‘s husband and daughter who we would then share the 3-hour drive with to the tiny town of Piobicco.
As we more closely approached our destination, I began noticing the hiking trails off the side of the road that led into the forest. My eyes swelled up, this was exactly it! I got excited that this was going to be my life for the next 10 days. There would be no other responsibilities of wedding planning, or picking up and dropping off my daughter: just me, nature, yoga, meditation and my best friend.
The way Tanya leads yoga is different than anyone else. She gives writing exercises, visualizations, breathing and stretching along with traditional yoga poses. When you work with Tanya you will get a full body, mind, and soul work out and I am stronger for it now. The things I worked on have led me to be gentler to myself and more supportive as a mother and soon to be wife.
I am so happy that my path, which was always leading to Italy, crossed with Tanya’s and that I was invited to participate in this fantastic voyage!
Patria and I shared spacious accommodations with seven other ladies all from different walks of life. Each taught me something and lead to my overall experience. We spent a lot of our downtime discussing our childhoods, trauma and all the variables that shaped the women we are today. I have to admit I was taken back by the fact that many of these women who are somewhat older than I am still felt very impacted by their childhood. This brought me a sense of calm because it was then that I realized even if I don’t remember much of my mom, she raised me for eight crucial years, at a time when I was being shaped into the person I am today. This meant that I am effected by her whether I knew it, remembered it or not. I am comforted by this realization.
One of the most transformative parts was during a yoga session when I was reflecting on the things I’ve learned about my mom over the past year. So far I’ve interviewed my dad, who had a lover‘s perspective. My godmother, who had the perspective of a childhood friend. A woman who became close to my mom in the last years of her life and Big Judi who knew her somewhere in the middle and gave her the name Baci, which was a huge part of her identity. Here I was in Italy, where she lived for years and for the very first time I felt like I knew her and I missed her. Does it sound crazy that I never missed her before? I didn’t know her and I didn’t think I remembered her so how could I have missed a stranger? For years I was too afraid to engage in conversation about my mom because I was saving myself from deep sadness. That served and protected me then and now I am ready to feel.
As of today I have received my doula certification and have attended 5 births. I’ve had some clients deliver with an epidural and others who did not. I’ve been in attendance during vaginal deliveries as well as cesarean sections. Some clients were medically induced while others experienced spontaneous labor at home. After some births, my body has been physically drained and sore. After other births, I feel energized and ready to take on the rest of my day. The support I’ve provided has been as diverse as each of the women receiving the support.
Since I have begun my doula training, I vowed to myself to be dedicated to learning about research and evidence-based information. My dedication was due to apprehension that I would find an overwhelming amount of misinformation based on fear, old wives tales, and anecdotes. I have been pleasantly surprised by the volume of research that is available and the dedication of other birth workers in obtaining and sharing information based on research, data, and statistics.
The majority of my interest lies in helping my clients manage their pain and discomfort during labor and delivery. Three themes keep showing up: support, placebo effects, and perception of pain. These themes are a reminder of the power of the mind.
People feel and perform better when they perceive themselves to be in supportive environments. Support is relative and varies by individual and preferences. If my clients get what they want, they will feel supported and have a more satisfying birthing experience.
A client who gets an epidural after wanting a completely natural birth will feel dissatisfied. A client who gets an epidural after expecting, wanting and requesting it, will feel satisfied. It isn’t the epidural it’self that is causing these feelings, however, it is the expectations around the birthing experience. When our expectations are met, we feel content and fulfilled.
Since coming to this realization I have shifted the conversations that I have with my clients from spewing information and tricks of the trade to me listening to their hopes, wishes, and fears. I don’t have a magical doula wand or pixie dust that eliminates pain but I do have some experience, an ear to listen, a heart filled with good intention and a bag with some tools to help my clients customize a birthing experience that they won’t want to forget.
I have wanted to visit Storm King Art Center since some of my friends went, last summer. The idea of an outdoor sculpture park, holding 100 larger than life sculptures for my viewing pleasure was more than intriguing.
The mix of sun, forest, art, activities for the little one, and fresh air was well worth the drive and admission price and I am looking forward to returning again and again. During our 3 hour visit, we only saw about one-tenth of what was available for us. Next time, I will be packing a picnic lunch and turning this into an all-day excursion!
I resigned from my position as a Case Manager on June 14th, which marked the end of getting paid for full-time work but it did not mark the end of my grinding spirit nor busy lifestyle. Up until that point, I was working three jobs, managing a new blog, planning a wedding and paying special attention to my daughter’s evolving needs of me as she grows and matures.
Her graduation was scheduled for Wednesday morning, June 20th. On June 19th, just the day before, I got word from my client that she believed she was in the beginning stages of labor. I got my doula bag together and began to mentally prepare for a birth, dangerously close to an important milestone in my daughter’s life. I had to push through the thought that I could miss either of these very important occurrences. I didn’t want to have to make a choice between them, so I didn’t.
At 2:57am on Wednesday, my client’s husband called to inform me that they were on their way to the hospital as her contractions were increasing in intensity and frequency. As he updated me on the phone, I was carefully listening to my client’s moans in the background. She sounded as though she was in mid-late labor and I hoped and guessed that she had labored long enough at home, meaning that she just may be nearly ready to deliver by the time she arrived at the hospital. I took the leap of faith that there was no need to contact my backup doula to cover for me. I felt nervous and mildly confident that I could attend her birth and Jayda’s graduation.
She delivered around 6am that morning. I had enough time to marvel at her strength, admire the new family and make sure the baby was latching on well, go home, shower and run out to Jayda’s graduation. I even had time to get flowers and a good seat. Immense relief, a huge deep breath, and a shit ton of gratitude.
My little girl is no longer an elementary school student and she will be attending the School of the Future in the fall. As this was our first pick for middle school, I am extremely proud of Jayda and excited for everything in store for her.
Her senior dance was the following Friday. Jayda and all her friends looked beautiful and had a great time at their masquerade ball themed celebration!
On the 26th, my second client of the month delivered her baby and it was also amazing. I love my job!
On the 27th I saw my wedding dress for the first time in months! It’s still beautiful and still the one! I’m growing more and more excited for our big day as we get closer to it. Plus, my bride tribe and I have started planning a bachelorette/bridal shindig that I’m also looking forward to.
June felt jam-packed, but everything fit. And there’s lots more to come.
When our friend Jibril told us that he was getting married, Rick and I grinned at the thought of having an excuse to visit California again. California is pretty significant to the ever-evolving story of Laura Max and Rick. We kicked off a love affair there in 2014 and got engaged there in 2017. Click here for the full love story and all the juicy details.
Rick and I met at his house in the Bronx after work on Thursday afternoon but this was no ordinary Thursday. Not only were we heading to the airport, but it was also my last day at my 9-5 job. This trip was intended to commemorate our friend and his nuptials as well as celebrate and mark the end of an era working full time in the field of developmental disabilities.
We touched down in LAX on Thursday evening. Well rested from the 6-hour flight, we decided to go out. Rick found a venue from Instagram that looked pretty cool called Apt 503. This venue is only worth mentioning due to it’s avant-garde Alice In Wonderland-like decor, which made for the perfect photo op. Much of the decor was being projected onto the walls, thus making it also great for the optical illusion lover. Dubstep isn’t really my speed so I cannot vouch for it musically, but visually, this venue is on point.
On the second day of our trip, I woke up and visited the garden of the Airbnb we were staying. I was all too excited to learn that there were tangerine and lemon trees there and I quickly began to plan what I could do with all this fresh garden goodness. I ended up deciding on a sweet and tangy tangerine-lemonade.
Later that day we visited the dispensery. Legalization makes me happy. We bought more than a reasonable amount of product consisting of a carbonated beverage, a sativa, indica and gummies. All this on day 2 of a 4-day trip. What can I say? We love to live in abundance.
After I mistakenly put the wrong address into the GPS that put us 45 minutes out of the way of our next stop, we finally found ourselves at the Famous Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.
The abundance of cannabis and infused treats, of course, led us to be on our asses and we called it a night pretty early. Luckily we had morning hiking plans at Griffith Park and getting a full nights rest was key to getting out of the house by 6am the next day.
After our hike, we visited Beverly Hills for some light shopping. I was excited to visit Kyle Richard’s store (from The Beverly Hill’s franchise of The Real Housewives). Rick was excited to visit G-Star where he wound up getting a $200 pair of jeans on sale for $30.
Then it was back to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, because why not?
The next day we celebrated our reason for visiting LA in the first place by attending our friend’s wedding. Both the bride and the groom were dressed in beautiful garbs from the Muslim faith and looked amazing as they vowed their love and commitment for one another.
I left early the next morning, thus concluding my brief but memorable trip to LA. As always, I am looking forward to returning. There is always something to new to do in the sunny state of California.