The Charles Wedding

The Charles Wedding

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our friends and family who helped make our wedding especially memorable and filled with love!

Please click the link below to enjoy some wedding photos!

Wedding Photos

 


 

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When One Gig Isn’t Enough

When One Gig Isn’t Enough

When I quit my full-time job to freelance as a doula and blogger I knew that as any new career would have it, the growth of income would be slow and unsteady at first.

However, I am a planner and at times a true type A personality. There is no way I could tolerate a completely unpredictable income. Since last summer, when I first began to plan my transition from full-time employment to freelancing, I reached out to a friend of mine who I knew was teaching English online to students in China with a company called VIPKID. We met for drinks in November, where she outlined how the business worked and how she applied and got started. By the end of December, I began teaching and earning $10-$12 per 30-minute class. I love the flexibility of this job. I work as many hours as I want and all from the comfort of my home!

Although VIPKID income alone isn’t enough to be financially sustainable, it was a nice supplement to my income during the 6 months that I worked three jobs (as Case Manager, Doula, and online Teacher). The plan is for it to continue to be a supplement to my income now, as just a doula.

I wanted to write about this because I’ve been paying more attention to the fact that so many people seem to be unhappy with their work but feel stuck and limited by their options. There are ways to build a life for yourself that you love from top to bottom. It usually involves talking to and learning from other people, a bit of creativity and an open mind. I took my time and planned my escape from traditional employment because I didn’t want to wing it and possibly suffer financially and I recognize that my way is just one way to do it.

It is said that time is the most precious commodity we have. It is something that you can never get back, once it’s gone. True as that is, time is also all we have. Whether it is written in the stars that I will live for one more year or for one hundred more years, it is up to me to make the time I have, the best time of my life. We can spend our lives grumbling Monday through Friday, or we can work towards making every day worthy of weekend celebration! VIPKID is just one step in my path, and maybe one step in your path too. Click here for a referral code and please contact me if you have specific questions or would like more information. I am happy to share!

If you have other ideas for part-time gigs/online employment, comment below and potentially help a fellow reader in their journey!

 

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A Hair Journey

A Hair Journey

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!


PRETRANSITION

Hooked on that creamy crack


TRANSITIONING

Lots of braids, Bantu knots, and puffy roots


POST CHOP

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.


Ciao Mama Italia!

Ciao Mama Italia!

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.

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My June

My June

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.

On June 14th I also hopped on a plane and flew across the country to one of my favorite cities, LA. You can read more about my trip by clicking on this link. I returned just in time to begin to prepare my daughter for her senior dance and elementary school graduation.

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.

Going Back To Cali

Going Back To Cali

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.

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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?

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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.

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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Laura Max

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!