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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Doula Support

Doula Support

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.

Simple Summer Salad

Simple Summer Salad

I was shocked to be impressed by this simple recipe for the perfect summer salad!

Torn Romain Lettuce

Diced Pink Lady Apple

Diced Cucumber

Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Mix

& sprinkle your favorite nut (I used a homemade trail mix which had pecans, pistachios and cashews)

It provides such a fresh taste with an array of flavor, from bursts of crisp sweetness from the apple to smokey heat from the black pepper. It was so yummy!

Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Do you have a favorite summer recipe? Share below!

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!

Take Me Higher

Take Me Higher

Do you identify as a stoner?

Do you like to eat delicious food?

Are you into yoga?

Do you enjoy spending time with strong women from all walks of life?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Higher Yoga may be just for you.

Created and run by sisters Shanelly & Roshelly, Higher Yoga is exactly what it sounds like, and then some. A giant cipher among the 15 participants, yummy snacks and food (some of which has been cannabis-infused), an hour of yoga led by a wonderful instructor and goodies to take home.

I smoked before leaving home because I was afraid that a cipher of this magnitude would certainly leave me feeling sober. I was wrong. There was an abundance of weed, food and great vibes for the entire 3-hour event.

The afternoon started by laying out our mats while munching on fruit bowls, bagels,  and enjoying homemade juices. We then began the cipher with a sativa strand. Sativas tend to provide more invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects. (Source) We went around the room, introducing ourselves and setting intentions for the week. After checking in with ourselves and each other, the yoga instructional portion began. This was led by Muriel, who eased us into gentle yoga over hip hop beats. After yoga, a hearty brunch, and of course  the next round of marijuana was served. This time Indica, which is a strain believed to be physically sedating and perfect for relaxing. (Source) We ended the afternoon with deep breathing and meditation.

I will definitely be participating in more Higher events and I invite all my New York readers/stoners to check them out and see for your self what all the hype is about.

Their next event is on July 1st, as the sisters celebrate 1 year of their business and it’s sure to be a memorable event of the summer. Use this link to get your tickets.

Higher Yoga and all of the Higher events are nice reminders that if you have an idea for a business venture of your own, there is no better time than now to see your dream to fruition. If you would benefit from the service/class/product, there are countless other like-minded people who would think your idea is dope as well, so go for it!


Check these ladies out on IG//

Shanelly                  Roshelly                  Yogi Muri                    Higher Dining

 

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!

 

New Face, Who Dis?

New Face, Who Dis?

I have struggled with acne since elementary school. When I was younger, I hid my huge pimple riddled forehead under baseball caps. As an adult, I rely on makeup and bangs. I visited with dermatologists when the problem first arose but all I remember from that was getting injections in each pimple and leaving the doctor’s office with a bleeding face… And returning to do it all again… but without any benefits.

As a teenager, I was a regular at my local drug store. I purchased all kinds of washes, toners, masks, serums, moisturizers, and strips. Nothing worked! Plus- As a pathological picker, I only made matters worse.

As I’ve grown older and begun to revisit the natural lifestyle that I grew up with, I started to rely on oils to cure my acne woes.

Tea tree oil

Lavender oil

Coconut oil

I was dedicated and convinced that one day one of these oils would get rid of my problem skin. In reality, they just made my face super oily.

Go figure… I’m not sure why that lesson took so long to learn but I gave oils at least a year to do their thing before giving up.

Most recently, I had some leftover money on a benefit card from my employer which could only be used for medical purposes. The idea didn’t come to me on my own, but my fiance suggested that I use the money to give a dermatologist another try. So I did. I was prescribed a medicated wash, a day cream, a night cream, a fading cream for scars and an herbal supplement.

For once in my life I am pleased with the results enough to >gasp< share my before pictures!

Dr. Lodha at Pura Dermatology really delivered! I am now so excited to wash my face and go, only bothering with a bit of mascara if I’m feeling fancy. No more concealer or foundation or any other feeble attempts at covering up.

This change has come just in time for my upcoming wedding and all my other pursuits which require people to look at my face a lot more than ever before. I know that I still have a bit of scarring to resolve but I’m really happy with the results.

When I began my journey into creating a life I love, I didn’t know it would involve my face. The way I perceive myself is a huge determining factor of how I move in the world. It dictates the amount of eye contact I give, which dictates conversation, intimacy, and connections with other people. For me, a clear face is more than looking good in my reflection. It’s about feeling good and confident and being more open in relationships both old and new.

 

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January 2018

 

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March 2018

 

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May 2018

New face, who dis?