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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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.

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!

Resigning into Passion

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

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”)

Her & Hers

Her & Hers

Dear Jayda,

Having you at 21 meant more time to share, more growing done together and more memories to hold forever! Thank you for making me a mother and for making this ride so sweet! You are a shining example of how pure and untainted love is and I couldn’t be happier to have been chosen to be your mommy!

Love,

Mommy