It’s Never Him

When I worked in Brooklyn, I had a direct supervisor and his name was Jerry Negron. Jerry was an older Puerto Rican man with thick jet black hair and a furry mustache to match. Every day he would ride in to work on his Harley Davidson Motorcycle and every afternoon he would ride back out. Jerry was a simple man whose main pleasures in life included long rides on his bike, hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. The fast-paced, ever-emergency-ridden atmosphere of the Day habilitation center where we served adults with developmental disabilities was too demanding for Jerry. He longed for retirement and ease and spoke of them often, with a smile.

Jerry saw potential in me as a younger and newer member of the agency and he treated me with favor. He would spend extra time explaining policies and made sure that all of my order requests for supplies were approved. He encouraged me to think about my own retirement and helped me to plan for it financially. Although Jerry, through his actions was encouraging of promotion and mobility, his words strongly urged against it. “The higher you climb, the more stress you will endure and this job is never worth the stress” he explained. In any difficult job, when you find someone who gets you, you hold on close. Jerry got me and together we sighed under our breaths and rolled our eyes expressing the same disconcertment towards the growing disorganization of the place we called work. More than a friendship, I looked up to Jerry as a father figure. He looked out for my professional well being and was concerned about my future.

After working together for several years, Jerry finally announced his retirement and as his sidekick, I was invited to be in charge of his farewell celebration. I ordered the largest greeting card Amazon could deliver, with the hope that he would recognize the size of the gift to represent the size of my admiration for him, although I never took the opportunity to state it explicitly.

We had a wonderfully bittersweet party for Jerry where we eagerly listened to his plans of future nature exploration and family reunions. Later that day, Jerry walked out of the building and I haven’t seen him since. I let him leave without a single way of contacting him. No phone number, no email address and certainly no social media.

What I do know is that Jerry loves his bike and so whenever I see a rider on the streets or on a highway I am enthusiastically checking to see if it’s him, but it never is. All I will tell him is that I’m well, I left the agency and am working towards living a stress-free life. I will thank him because his financial advice has given an extra cushion to my retirement plans that I  would not have if it were not for him. I will ask him if he’s done the things he was most looking forward to and I truly hope he has.

You never know the impressions you can leave in someone’s heart even years after an encounter. I  wonder if I’ve left a mark on his and if he ever thinks of me. For now, all I can do is keep looking for Jerry on the open roads, even though it’s never him.

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I Am Not a Photographer

I am not a photographer

I am a girl

who takes pictures

sometimes 

when the inconvenience

of taking out my phone

doesn’t outweigh

the aesthetics of my view

 

I am not a photographer

but I play one on Instagram

 

I am not a photographer

but when I see homegirl

on the A train

in the corner

with swelling eyes

and tears forming

I think about the intensity in her gaze

and the perfect shadow formed by her profile

like a photographer would

but I’m not one

 

I am not a photographer 

but my commute

my reflection

my experience

is made better

because I pretend to be

a photographer

sometimes

Crystals, Tarot & Reiki… Oh my!

Ever since I began my journey of self-actualization and a career as a Birth Doula, I have found myself emersed in a culture of pseudoscience which is also a culture that I don’t necessarily identify with. I don’t use tarot cards. I don’t get reiki massages and I don’t believe in the power of crystals, but so many of the people in my circles do. I entertain astrology because the coincidences amuse me but I do not believe that all (enter any subgroup here) is any one particular way. Not all black people are the same. Not all women are the same. Not all Capricorns are the same, as much as I joke about the opposite being true.

I subscribe to science and logic and I believe that I have found the same comfort in those subscriptions that my peers have found in pseudoscience. Even science has an explanation for the anecdotal benefits of pseudoscience and it’s called the placebo effect:

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I try not to judge others who move in this world differently than the way that I move, so long as it isn’t harming themselves or others but I find great disadvantages and harm to believing in pseudoscience.

I believe it is limiting. If you only feel a sense of relaxation when you have an Amethyst crystal in your hand, then what happens when you lose that crystal or can’t find it? Now you’ve lost your sense of calm when in reality the power to be calm was in you all along. Crystals can be a great reminder of strength but I think more often than not, it’s used as a crutch and a replacement of real soul searching and digging. It may also be limiting because it isn’t encouraging you to investigate your self, your emotions or your trauma. If you think the problems exist outside of yourself, then I guess it makes sense to believe that the answers to the problems are outside of yourself as well. This is faulty though, because the problem IS in you, and so is the solution. Pseudoscience also may require that you need to buy something in order to possess this power which feeds into commercialism when again the power is in you already.

I’ve told my daughter since she was young that there’s no such thing as Santa. I was criticized for doing so and accused of stealing her innocence and adolescent joy but anyone who knows her can attest to the quality of her childhood. She views life through rainbow colored glasses, sprinkled with glitter and fairy dust. Her lack of belief in something made up had no negative effect on her experiences. Similarly, me knowing that crystals are like any other rock (albeit prettier, much prettier) doesn’t make my life any less magical. I see magic and beauty every day. I am awed by the relationship between God and science and I love seeing them work together.

If you believe that crystals will work for you, they will.

I don’t believe that crystals will work for me, so they won’t.

Looking at this, is the crystal actually working or is the power in you?

I think it’s more empowering to believe that you hold the key to your future, that you control your mood and your destiny, that you have influence over your own life rather than these arbitrary rocks. I think it’s dangerous to believe that these outside influences control your life because then when they’re broken you’re broken. When you can’t find it, you can’t find your self. It’s harder to find the power within yourself but once you do, it can’t be taken away. It can’t be bought or sold and it can’t be manipulated by anyone other than you. Isn’t that more powerful? Isn’t anything else detrimental to your spiritual and emotional well-being? 

What are your thoughts on pseudoscience such as crystals, reiki or tarot cards? How have they shaped your experience of the world? I’d love to open up the conversation because I don’t believe that I have all the answers. I just know that what I believe, works for me. 

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Laura Max

I asked my readers to submit questions to continue to get to know me. I was thinking I would have to explain my favorite colors or hair products but ya’ll wasted no time getting straight into the deep stuff.

Here we go……

  1. If you were in a fire, and everyone you love was safe, what three items would you grab to save and why? (Question submitted by Jeisson C.)

First of all, I saw This Is Us and realistically I’m not running into any fire to save anything, since my family are all safe…. but hypothetically speaking, I would grab this large plastic bin I have that holds some of my mother’s belongings. There isn’t much in there but it means a lot to me. She was very spiritual, so it has a chanting book, a notebook, and other items that remind me of her and my childhood growing up with the influence of the Ashram. Then I would try to grab as many photo albums as I could. I have tons from high school, way before digital cameras so they feel extra valuable to me. I would have to use my third option to save something that belongs to Jayda, likely Callie, one of her stuffed animals.

 

2. If you had a super power, what would it be and why? (Also submitted by Jeisson C.)

If I could have any super power in my imagination, I would choose the power to change people’s mind. I promise I would only use it for the greater good of humanity, and only for really important issues. Best part about this power is everyone would love my initiatives and no on would disagree because, well, I would change their minds if they did. World hunger, war, racism? All things of the past. I think I would also use this power to help people on a more personal level. You want to go back to school but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to commit and finish? Yes, you can! You want to lose weight but you hate whole grains, vegetables and exercising? BAM! How you like them now? You want to quit your job and move across the country but you’re scared of the unknown? Not anymore!

 

3. How does it feel to control your own paycheck? (Submitted by Cedric F.)

Initially, I felt nervous about this. My earnings are now a direct reflection of my effort. There are no “benefits” in terms of 401K or paid vacation time. However, I feel really motivated by this also. When I work hard, money rolls in and that is an incentive to work harder, if and when money is the goal. When relaxation is the goal, I don’t have to ask anyone for permission. I’m creating a life I don’t need a vacation from anyway, so the responsibility that comes with this control is exciting! Let’s check in on this in a few months though (lol).

 

4. What is a defining moment in your life, other than being a mom and falling in love, that made you a better person? (Submitted by Mario C.)

Don’t you hate when you ask a specific question and the person answers something else? Yeah, sorry about that Mario. I cannot choose one defining moment because I feel like my life has been a culmination of little moments that are all guiding me to wherever it is I am supposed to be. I feel like growing up with spirituality has been a huge factor that’s helped to make me a better person. Falling in love has made me better, but more specifically the man that I have fallen in love with makes me a better person. He holds me accountable for the things I say which makes me a better communicator and more responsible. I know he has high expectations of me which helps me to keep growing. I feel safe knowing that when I fall, he’s there to get back up with me.

 

5. How does it make you feel about pursuing what you love? (Also submitted by Mario C.)

I feel GREATFUL! Greatful that I have the capacity and resources to truly customize my life. I’m sooooo greatful that I have support from my friends and family. I’m 32 years old and I could have sworn my parents opinions didn’t affect me anymore but I realized I was nervous when telling my step-mom about my new career. But after I nervously did, she was so happy and excited for me and it just pushed me further. I take my hat off to people who pursue their dreams despite doubt and criticism. I feel courageous but that is some next level fearlessness.

 

6. Since you’re a birth doula now, what was your own birthing experience with your daughter? (Question submitted by Stephanie L.)

I got pregnant with Jayda when I was 21 years old. I had a very stressful pregnancy, which began with my father asking me to move out, led to the strain of living in my daughter’s father’s family’s house and ended with an emergency cesarean procedure at just 32 weeks. I was completely removed from my body at the time. I didn’t feel my sky high blood pressure. I didn’t ask questions. I wasn’t empowered. I didn’t have one single doctor, but instead many rotating physicians and residents. My birth story was a complete mess. But that mess gives me an interesting perspective when working with my clients. I would never want anyone to experience their births the way I did. On August 15th 2007, Jayda was born 2 lbs 9oz. Tiny as could be but just as strong and healthy. She didn’t have anything to worry about except getting bigger and she stayed in the hospital for her first 5 weeks of life.

 

7. Which self-care practices do you subscribe to? (Question submitted by Nicole P.)

I love. love. love breathing deeply. I even use an app that helps guide deep breathing. It’s called “Calm”. I also love stretching my body, especially my neck and shoulders which is where I carry most of my stress. Warm baths with candle light are also nice. I bought an oil diffuser for my clients but I’ve enjoyed using it for myself as well. Mango and peppermint oils are my favorites so far. Sometimes I need to journal to practice self-care, especially when I’m having a hurricane of thoughts in my head that need organizing and sorting out. I write what’s bothering me, and the solutions. Sometimes the solution is just getting it out of my head and on to paper, and sometimes I need to take action. Either way, writing has been a saving grace for me.

 

Thank you all for your submissions and thank you for being supporters of my blog!

Resigning into Passion

All of the self-improvement and self-actualization that I’ve been actively working on for the past few years would be incomplete and almost insignificant if I didn’t change where and how I spent 40 hours of my life, each week.

Work was feeling like a jail sentence. Mid-way through the day, my mind would begin to wander. I would stare out the window and feel like the little mermaid “I wanna be where the people are.”

8 hours of my day was far too many.

5 days a week seemed unfair.

Commuting for 2-3 hours each day to arrive and want to be somewhere else just didn’t make any sense anymore.

*sigh, eye roll, teeth suck*


When I first began working in the field of developmental disabilities, it was because I was pregnant and I needed a job. Unfortunately, it never turned out to be more than just a paycheck for me.

I cared, I did well, I got promotions, and I now earn double my salary from when I first entered the field almost 11 years ago. I’ve worked alongside tons of great people, many of whom I call friends. I’ve had supervisors and co-workers who gave me the chance to shine and excel in my roles, and I did just that. I witnessed people in this field who were and are fulfilling their own passions and I witnessed far many more, drag themselves to work, to give mediocre effort because their hearts were somewhere else, often in a place that they knew nothing about yet. I usually fell somewhere in between.

Bureaucracy is a buzz kill. Arbitrary deadlines, meetings that should be emails, and paperwork all stood in my way from making an impactful difference, according to what that means to me.

Added responsibilities feel nice. Promotions feel nicer. Raises feel the nicest. But nothing beats passion. So after careful deliberation and planning, I have decided to resign from my position at ADAPT Community Network to pursue my passions of providing doula care, writing, and photography. I also leave the door open to discovering new talents and interests and I’m thrilled to finally have the time and energy to do so.

I’ve never before had the privilege to resign from a position and it was quite frightening to hand that letter to my supervisor… but after the feelings of terror left my body, I felt free!

I am free to spend my time in ways that ignite me and fuel me forward! I am finally working towards fulfilling my own mission statement, instead of someone else’s.

Freedom has its price. Being self-employed means the money that I pull in will be a direct result of my effort. That’s scary for someone who has only ever worked 9-5pm. This is a leap that I am not only willing to make but a leap that is required for my growth.

I have immeasurable memories of employment here. Some make me smile when thinking back and other memories remind me of why this resignation was inevitable and necessary. ADAPT Community Network (formally known as UCP of NYC) offered me invaluable experience that I will carry over as I continue to reinvent myself both professionally and personally and I am extremely grateful for every lesson I’ve received.

I am even more grateful for the opportunity to move on and out!

Farewell, ADAPT!

Hello Passion!

 

Me & Mine

In the summer of 2016, I was preparing to go on a shopping trip at BJ’s with a coworker for our Fourth of July BBQ.

Let’s call her L.

As we exited the company vehicle in the parking lot, she shared with me that she was sensing a female presence from the afterlife. It wasn’t until this moment that I knew my coworker was a Medium.

I’m skeptical of all things mystical. I believe that too often fraudulent people claim false abilities and prey on others who are in vulnerable or emotional positions.

But I didn’t ask for this contact. It was being presented to me.

We began discussing some of her other experiences in communicating with those who have passed on. She told me countless stories of their interactions while she was in museums, or near grave sites, where the dead often linger. We discussed high profile unsolved cases of which she was sure she knew the answers due to her abilities. L told me of how she never charges anyone to enlist her help. This put my mind at ease a bit and helped me to trust her more.

After telling L of those nearest to me who have died, she assumed the woman who was joining our shopping trip was either my mother or my grandmother. I clung to the idea of my mother trying to communicate with me and I needed to know more. I hadn’t after all, seen her since I was 8 when breast cancer put an end to her life.

BJ’s was too loud, L said. We should reconnect another time and do this in a setting where she could concentrate better and work at her full capacity. L was also moving across the country the following month. The clock was working against us.

The day before moving, in between her last minute errands, my fiance and I met with L in a park in the Bronx. We sat down at a bench amidst all the sounds of passing trains and traffic and the normal distractions of the boogie down. The setting was still not ideal but it would have to do.

We sat and I was asked to lead….. What questions did I have?

Shit. I wasn’t prepared.

I didn’t have any questions to ask, so L took over sharing with me things that my mother was sharing with her: Paint Jayda’s room pink and keep her into music- Jayda hates pink but loves to sing and plays the violin. My father was the love of her life- good to know. Name my next child Josephine- we’re hoping for a boy, but OK.Put her photograph back up on the wall- I had recently painted the walls in the room where my mother’s photo was hanging and hadn’t put her picture back up yet. This particular detail of our meeting intrigued me the most.

Before we parted ways, L told me that, my mother was hugging me and to expect a dream with her soon. I felt nothing and I so desperately want to feel my mother’s embrace. I was somewhat disappointed and confused by what was revealed to me as some of it had significance but not all of it.

When I returned home that evening, while looking through old pictures I saw and then remembered that the living room I grew up in with my mother, was pink. Was L really on to something here?

That day, I didn’t have any questions, but since that day I have many. Meeting with L prompted a drive in me to learn more about mother. Whether or not the encounter was truly authentic, I’ll never know but the consequent events have changed my life and that’s for sure. I decided to begin a research project by interviewing people who knew and loved my mother.

I first interviewed my mother’s childhood friend who is also my God Mother. Then I interviewed my dad, who was my mother’s ex-husband. Thirdly, I interviewed a close friend from my mother’s adulthood. I’m learning so much that I never knew I never knew!

I’m no longer afraid to confront my emotions while hearing the stories of a woman I barely got to know.  I’m excited to continue this project and I still have several more interviews to conduct. I don’t know what all will come of this. Blog posts? A book? We’ll see what I’m inspired to do once the research phase ends.

My mother lived in Italy for many years, pursuing her passion for acting and this August I will be visiting Italy for the first time so as you may imagine this trip holds great significance for me.

When my mother passed away, many including myself thought that I handled it well because I didn’t speak about it much but there are simply no words to match the pain in a little girl who loses her mother. This pain is now transforming into intrigue and appreciation…. stay tuned.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mommies and mother-figures, here and beyond

And I would like to wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to my own…

Yvonne Southerland

Yvonne Holder

Baci

Vonny

Mommy

(Baci is an Italian word which means Kisses and is pronounced “Bah-chee”)

Dear Mr. West

Dear Mr. West,

May I call you Ye?

Hey Ye. I am a fan of yours and have been for over a decade. You are gifted beyond comprehension. You are an innovator and you have pushed the culture since you entered the scene. I consider you to be a major public advocate for black people due to your lyrical content and upbringing.

Earlier this week, you said some things and upset a lot of people. The first comment was about loving Trump. At first, I didn’t know why you would choose to align yourself with him but only when hearing more about your love for the world did I really begin to understand. You said you love every person that has ever lived. Well, that would certainly include Trump. As I move my consciousness into more aware states, I’ve stopped hating people; people who have hurt me and strangers alike. I feel the next step in my progression will be to move from “not hating” to “loving”. So, I get it, or at least I’m hopeful that I’ll get it soon.

The next so-called outrageous comment you made was about slavery being a choice. The public did not want to hear that but I agree. The same way that some slaves chose to escape and rebel, others chose to stay. I’m disappointed that you didn’t further explain your point because you are being crucified alive for stating a fact but I’m more disappointed in the public for not listening to the words you said. Many made assumptions about what they thought your comment meant, and many are wrong. I think most of the confusion comes from people ignoring the definition of the word choice: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.


What “Slavery Was a Choice” doesn’t mean:

Africans liked slavery

Slavery was an easy choice to make

Running away was easy and didn’t result in death

Africans wanted to participate in slavery

Africans were not mentally/physically manipulated into becoming and remaining enslaved

Colonizers are justified in enslaving Africans

 

What “Slavery Was a Choice” does mean:

When presented with the options of remaining enslaved or attempting to achieve freedom, many enslaved Africans chose to remain enslaved generation after generation.

 

Where is the lie?


 

If folks can acknowledge that some chose to escape and revolt (ie Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Toussaint Louverture, Charles Deslondes to name a few) then why is it such a struggle to understand that the vast majority chose not to? I am certain that people are committed to misunderstanding you. Are black people afraid of the notion of accepting any sort of responsibility in the discourse of our history?

You’re being labeled ignorant, mentally unstable, off your meds, insane, a coon and that you are suffering from Stockholm syndrome. The hashtag #mutekanye is scary to me. People are talking about boycotting your businesses, all because they don’t understand you and maybe they just aren’t ready to understand.

I would like to draw a comparison to a modern idea that may be easier for people to digest. A woman who is a victim of domestic violence has a very difficult decision to make. She can either remain in the relationship and continue to face abuse or she can attempt to leave and potentially face more abuse, financial instability, isolation, homelessness etc. It may not feel like a choice especially when you throw manipulation and lies into the mix and it is a terrifying decision to have to make. It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place. The options aren’t ideal, but the options are there. Many women chose to stay in an abusive relationship out of fear. Their fear is legitimate and the consequences of their decisions are real.  Similarly, many Africans chose to stay enslaved out of fear. The notion of slavery being a choice doesn’t remove any responsibility from the whites who participated in slavery any more than it removes the responsibility from the abusive husband in the above example. Regardless of the choices made on the part of the victims, the abusive acts were heinous, disgusting and inexcusable.

I believe you were commenting on the choice of many to remain enslaved, not passing judgment on it.

I thought about whether I wanted to share my feelings on this subject. I thought about my new career and how I’m marketing and promoting myself. Do I want to be aligned with someone who is under such scrutiny? Do I want to be brave? Do I want to speak my truth? I saw and felt such a lack of support in your direction, and I had to say something. I am inspired by your bravery.

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. Be strong for your storm has just begun.

 

 

Sincerely,

Laura Max, a fan, a supporter and an admirer

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