“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18

My daughter’s friends sometimes become a friend of the family sharing dinners, weddings and births. This is true of Shantal, a young mom whose recent announcement that her newborn has a disability strikes a chord of courage and perfect love. With a gracious and enthusiastic heart, she has allowed me to share her story.

Shantal Sequeira: “My story you all know is a happy one. I met my love, got engaged, married, then pregnant. My pregnancy was virtually perfect, I felt good, no sickness, no hormonal emotions, I got a really happy vibe from this baby in my belly. When my son was born the nurse showed him to me for the first time, we locked eyes and she said what do you think? I shook my new baby’s hand (because he put his hand out as if to say “nice to meet you”) as he looked in my eyes, I thought ‘he’s perfect’.

Any mother knows your heart falls in such deep love that very moment in time. In that moment in time I was told my son may have Trisomy 21, a.k.a. Down Syndrome. In that moment I was so confused yet stayed calm because I didn’t know what this all meant? I just wanted to hold him and be with him. Nothing could block the new mommy, love, excited, fascination and beautiful love feelings I had for him, not even the possibility of him having this syndrome that I knew little about.

After being told baby Julian has displayed a positive diagnosis, my husband Elmer and I were shocked and wondered what was going to happen. We didn’t know how to feel really but with a deeper sense of warmth and responsibility, we held hands and asked every question in the world. Then, off we were on this journey into parenthood of a very special child. After covering all the bases about health conditions and possibilities down the road everything looked normal in Julian (his heart, his lungs). The only difference was… now I knew a little bit more about him as a person, that’s all.

They say you are supposed to go through a process of sadness, to ‘grieve’ or ‘mourn’ this life that you imagined for your child like, him going to Harvard or whatever… but to me, I always lived in the moment because you never know what the next moment has to offer. I am so SO proud of my son and he hasn’t gone one day without making me smile. They say it’s normal to cry and think “why me” but I’m not one of those people, Julian has special needs but he has a GREAT life, he has two loving parents a house, two puppy brothers and everything he needs to strive and reach all his milestones in life.


Mom, Baby, Dad – Shantal, Julian, Elmer

Julian has been full of surprises since week thirteen of my pregnancy when we thought he was going to be a girl. LOL. Well, there is no better or perfect family for Julian to have fallen into than with myself and Elmer as his parents.

Contrary to popular belief this doesn’t mean he has a disease, or considered retarded or whatever. No, it is a combination of characteristics that causes developmental differences than a typical child. There are so many myths out there but EVERY child is different so there is no telling when he may begin to talk or walk. The community has SO many resources that provide early interventions to help with anything we need.


Baby Julian

Either way, Julian is a baby, I’m a new mommy, and nothing has changed my experience as a mother and the bond we share together. I haven’t had a moment to write about this since breastfeeding is an all-encompassing experience. I feel blessed, my heart never loved so hard and I’m not saying I love my son more than any other mom out there, but the truth is I was meant to have him. We were meant to have him.

The crazy thing is, I remember a year or so before I got pregnant the day my husband and I had a conversation about down syndrome kids and I specifically said I wouldn’t mind having a kid with special needs, he answered back and said you know what, me neither. I get chills repeating that because God, the Universe was listening and I feel so lucky. One out of something like seven hundred kids are born with downs and I was chosen to be one of the moms of this awesome kid. Also contrary to popular belief the majority of kids born with Trisomy 21 are young moms, not over the age of 35 like people believe. (I got pregnant at 30).

Julian is amazing, at 2 months of age he is the most courageous baby I have ever seen. He doesn’t cry when he gets poked at the doctor and he has this peace about him that I wish I could imitate. He is patient, confident, he actually never cries. Sometimes he yells and it seems as if he listens to the sound of himself yelling and thinks to himself, “I don’t like that sound” and stops. He sleeps through the night, doesn’t make a peep and he’s actually a pretty serious baby. I love his personality so far, he has his dads big serious eyes, he doesn’t smile yet, but very rarely when he does… he smiles using his eyes and his smiley lips with no teeth. My heart melts. And I don’t doubt that throughout his life he will melt a lot of hearts.”


Perfect Love – Baby and Mommy

So Happy

Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together

(Song excerpt, “So Happy” by : Alan Gordon, Allan Lee Gordon, Garry Bonner)


 It was a pleasure to share Shantal’s powerful story; it melted my heart.  I trust that baby Julian will follow in his mom and dad’s loving ways.

Speaking of melting, summer is a good time to share my daughter Marianna’s favorite summer treat. This frozen treat will melt in your mouth before or after a workout. A tasty snack for kids of all ages, it’s healthy and easy to make too!

 Frozen Banana Peanut Butter Energy Pops (short for popsicle)


Banana Peanut Butter Energy Pops (pre-frozen)


One banana

One tablespoon of peanut butter

Option: Mixing some dark chocolate chips to the peanut butter

Two servings

1. Take a ripe banana, and slice it in half (like you would when you slice bananas.)

2. Take one of the halves and slice it horizontally, so it resembles the sandwich part of an ice

3. Smear one tablespoon of peanut butter on one side; put the other side on top, wrap it in aluminum foil, and pop them in the freezer.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other half of the banana.

When the treat is frozen, take it out of the freezer and let it thaw for one minute. Then enjoy this delicious pick-me-up snack. I’m telling you, it tastes like peanut butter banana ice cream!


Marianna Riccio

Marianna Riccio

Marianna Riccio comes from a long line of “healthy treat junkies.”

Long before big health food chains such as Whole Foods even existed, her grandfather and grandmother who are my mom and dad, Albert and Lee Alberici raised nine children on natural, unprocessed foods and created healthy treats for the family.

Marianna is a third generation still living in the same light. Back in the 50’s, my sister and I, Alberici Sisters, were raised as vegetarians before it became popular. We wrote about being health pioneers and our entertainment adventures in our book, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.


Thank you Shantal and Marianna for sharing,

Maria Lauren, a.k.a. Maria Elena Alberici – Riccio,

Your Powerful LIFE blog

~ If you would like to be an advocate for people with Down Syndrome, I suggest finding out more at N.D.S.S., National Down Syndrome Society.

~ My Website

Maria-Lauren-MotivationThis is a blog about LIFE: Living, Inspiration, Fitness, Entertainment. It is produced in my own time and solely reflects my personal opinions. Statements on this site do not represent the views or policies of my employer, past or present, or any other organization with which I may be affiliated. All content is copyrighted.

When life gives you lemons… squeeze it into an Olympic moment!


Marianna Riccio likes moms recipes for lemons!

The Olympics will bring us more winners than losers, not everyone brings home the gold but every Olympian will bring home a golden experience. Whether it is the agony of defeat or the joy of winning; it’s what you do with your experiences; what you do with your lemons that make life a treat or a sour experience.

In my backyard, I have a lemon tree that almost continually drops lemons. Next to the lemon tree is a grape-vine. I prefer the sweetness of grapes to the taste of lemons so I have been nurturing the grape-vine and ignoring the lemon tree. However, it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting many grapes this year. Meanwhile, the lemons keep falling so I pick them up in gratitude and use them in a variety of ways. I share them with others, apply the juice to my skin (lightens, brightens and exfoliates), add lemon slices to a pitcher of water, make marmalade etc…

“Experiencing and expressing gratitude is an important part of any spiritual practice. It opens the heart and activates positive emotion centers in the brain.” ~ Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.



½ cup of plump ‘organic’ lemon skins

2 teaspoons of honey and/or agave to taste (1/2 teaspoon of Stevia or a sugar substitute may be used with 1 teaspoon of agave or honey)

Chop the lemon skins including the white part (loaded with vitamins) into the approximate size of a half-dime. Marinade lemon skins in honey for 24 hours in your refrigerator or until needed. The honey glazed lemon skins make an excellent after-dinner breath freshener too, just like candy. Put the pieces into a mini-prep Cuisinart processor and pulse.

Serve on toast (approximately 6 to 7 ) Tastes great in yogurt too!

  • For a gourmet touch, add two teaspoons of extra virgin coconut oil or butter to the lemon peels and pulse in mini-cuisinart.
  • To keep a regular bowel movement, add a ½ cup of soft prunes to the lemon peels and pulse in mini-cuisinart. You may not want to add any sweetener because prunes are already sweet. Pre-soak dry prunes (no preservatives) in water and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

My favorite cake is my mom’s non-gluten Walnut Cake. Lemon Marmalade could be used as part of the icing in-between the cake layers.

Did you know? Lemons contain many nutrients, including vitamin B1, B2, B6, riboflavin plus the minerals calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Every morning before breakfast, I try to drink hot/warm water and lemon juice. It is a digestive aid, an alkaline that helps relieve constipation and I heard it helps you lose weight. Also, hot/warm water, lemon and honey helps to relieve a tired, sore throat; a singer’s best friend! Chilled it makes a thirst quenching lemonade. Add some ginger or strawberries or rosemary to the brew… yummy!

Yes, delicious experiences can be disguised as lemons so I’ve learned to be grateful when life drops lemon-coated opportunities in my lap even when I’m making other plans.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” ~ Woody Allen


News of the Month

An excellent spirit brings excellence. Faith and gratitude are Olympian virtues. The Olympic spirit, brings people together and many moments will be remembered starting with the opening ceremony:

Vivid in my mind are the antics of Queen Elizabeth and the reigning James Bond, Daniel Craig. The comedy of Rowan Atkinson was so funny combined with the music and scenes from ‘Chariots of Fire.’  As night approached, the symbol of doves flying while volunteers wore wings and rode bicycles was a beautiful spectacle with a glimpse of “ET” riding a bike in the sky. But the best memory for me was the passing of the torch that lit-up a circle of nations and rose up towards the heavens into a tighter circle of light… beautiful symbolism… fireworks… and Paul McCartney’s song lyrics, “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Congratulations to David Boyle for his skill in combining history, sentimental moments and humor to the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.

“The roots of true achievement lie in the will to become the best that you can become.” ~ Harold Taylor


Pictured above is my daughter, Marianna Riccio. In the midst of lemons, she is all smiles and looking ahead to the future. Motherhood can be the hardest job in the world but also the best job in the world if you have an Olympian heart.

Marianna and I were interviewed on CNN-TV, Larry King Live. Here’s a peek into our experience and What’s next for Larry King?


In memory of the Aurora tragedy, sadness, forgiveness, compassion… I witnessed a News Broadcast that told the story of a victim saved by her best friend. Gratitude for the gift of friendship overshadowed the suffering she had from her gun shot wounds. When I saw the forgiveness that flowed from her heart for the gun man, it touched my heart and my tears began to flow.


Compassion connects us and even in the midst of tragedy faith gives us strength to heal.


Thanks for visiting and many blessings,

Maria Lauren – Your Powerful LIFE

(AKA) Maria Elena Alberici – Riccio


Dean-Martin-&-Alberici-Sisters-book,-Beyond-Our-Wildest-DreamsMaria Lauren & her sister Linda Eichberg are the Alberici Sisters and co-authors of the book, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams. Read exciting back-stage stories about their performances with the entertainment Icons of the 20th Century including the Rat Pack! Also, a story about the financing of the movie, ‘Chariots of Fire.’ Their book contains over 300 pictures and is available on-line at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The Alberici Sisters Contact: YGTPower@aol.com

  • Keynote Speakers: “You Got The Power”
  • Entertainers: “Showstoppers”
  • Authors: Book Signing Events
  • Singing & Fitness Coaches

Maria’s Website      Marianna’s Website

‘Your Powerful LIFE’ blog are reflections on Life – Inspiration – Fitness – Entertainment. It is produced in my own time and solely reflects my personal opinions. Statements on this site do not represent the views or policies of my employer, past or present, or any other organization with which I may be affiliated. All content is copyrighted.