Lifestyle By Jasmine Ford
  • I’ve never been one to need much fulfillment on my birthday. I had already made up my mind that my celebration would be calm because of my little friend COVID-19. Okay, she’s not really my friend and I would like her to leave, but I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon. And so what did I decide to do? Be wild and carefree by boarding a domestic flight with no clue of my end destination. Because life is good when you’re simply living.

    Just a day before my birthday my husband Keith put me on a flight to Baltimore, Maryland without giving me an itinerary. While anxiety has plagued my life for many years, I was excited to celebrate in such an untraditional way. Grateful to know that I have the freedom, security, and understanding within my familial unit to honor my birthday in an unconventional fashion. Of course I wanted all the details because the Leo in me just loves to take charge, but the anticipation of knowing I was traveling into the unknown was a vibe. It honestly felt weird seeing Hartsfield’s Jackson International so busy, and yet strangely slow because of the pandemic. I passed no judgment against the many faces I saw traveling. Aren’t we all simply trying to cope through COVID-19 as best as we can? Life is good when you learn to show compassion over judgment.

    I quickly shuffled into the flight with beef jerky and water since I didn’t have time for my ritual cocktail before the flight. TSA was extremely slow because of COVID regulations, but I can't complain because health and safety will always be a priority for me. Lucky for me I was able to sit in the window seat on my Spirit flight with two bourbon cocktails in hand. As nature would have it ginger ale accompanied my classic taste in adult beverages. I hurried off my flight and immediately FaceTimed my husband as he requested. He said, “You need to find arrival station 42 outside of BWI.” A couple of airport staff members saw how confused I was, but they graciously directed me outside. Let me tell you how my best friends Donte and Cornell were standing outside when I turned the corner. I immediately ran across the arrival terminal of BWI and jumped for joy! My husband said, “I just wanted to see your priceless reaction. Have fun and I love you.” Life is good when we see the significance in honoring love languages.

    Moments later I would arrive at the “Garden Oasis” of Laurel, Maryland. It’s the name I coined for my home away from home because the experience was like a 5-star hotel without the price tag and cold strangers. There is something about their space that immediately made me feel at home, cozy, and loved. The rose quartz put my heart and mind at ease, while the greenery gave me the nostalgic comfort of my parents home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I put my feet up and for the duration of the weekend I would be pampered. As a mother I find it so difficult to sit down, so I was grateful that Donte and Cornell allowed me to just be. No cooking, cleaning, laundry, or tending to all the things. Those things did not need me, and I for sure did not need them. My “faves” wasted no time and poured up a round of gin shots & red wine. We moved on to the outdoor balcony for fun and sun, then settled into the couch for some crispy shrimp wontons. I met two beautiful queens who showed up with genuine love and company. No negative energy. No snarky stares. Just a room full of beautiful melanated people from living in a “different world.” Life is good because I found my cultural identity.

    I realized that this was the first moment in life where I not only appreciated my circle of friends, but I felt genuine in being myself - no filter. After we demolished homemade baked curry chicken and roasted garlic broccoli, we poured up more wine and turned on Black is King. We rotated WAP as if it was the 90s and brought out our inner Hardcore Lil Kim - because owning your sexuality is beautiful. By the end of the night I dozed off before dancing, but I made up for it on August 7th. And as a true Leo queen I always rise fiercely. I indulged in a homemade breakfast that tasted better than any brunch spot in your local city. Nothing compares to a bowl of crispy brussel sprouts, bacon, and a runny egg drenched in pepper sauce. Then we moved on to Insecure, Moesha, and beer-mosa’s. I was soaking up every bit of thirty won because I knew I deserved this moment to unwind. We passed the hookah around and all I could see was symbolic beauty. You can breathe it all in, but then you have to let that shit go. This seems to be the metaphor of my life these days. Life is good because I found my power in response mechanisms.

    When the evening arrived we turned up the music and poured up the gin. There’s something about pregaming that just won’t ever go out of style for me. I threw on a short floral dress, my open toe heels, and a gold watch for a splash of aesthetic. We grabbed some quick photo ops and made our way to the Uber downstairs. My mask would accompany me in this saga of a zombie apocalypse movie we are all living in right now. I sat in stillness for some moments of the ride. Reflecting on the memorable moments I’ve had in PG County, Maryland. Those nights at the boulevard will always be carefully preserved in my heart. Because I remember doing it all from the heart. Just as sure as the dusk sweeps over dawn, the pages of yesterday will not return. I wonder if I was ever missed in the city? As we slowly approached the District of Columbia, I couldn’t help but take in all the gentrification. When the familiar suddenly becomes distant and you’re looking for comfort in places that no longer exist. We made our way into the Wharf and to my surprise we were at 12 Stories - the intersection of DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I immediately fell in love with the ambiance. Our server was such a beauty, and the complimentary cocktail and shots sold the deal. The Manhattan matched my energy, and the jumbo skewer shrimp was satisfying to my Eastern shore roots. The Sauvignon blanc was on chill and the shots were filled with adrenaline and fun. It was all the motivation I needed to dance on the corner while waiting for our Uber. I recall two girls walking by with their dogs and hyping me up as any confident Queen would. Life is good when you can just let your hair down and dance.

    After pre-dinner cocktails we hurried down to our Uber and arrived at Ambar restaurant. It was a dream come true to be surrounded by bottomless tapas and drinks. There were so many delicious options to indulge in - some of my memorables were the lamb lasagna, charcuterie, mussels, and zucchini soup. Not to mention the stiff old fashioned that accompanied my meal. I’ll always stay true to my classic cocktails because I’m a simple kind of gal. By the end of the night we were walking from Royal Farms back to the apartment. We were hoping to find BC powder to prevent those nasty hangovers, but we survived with vitamins and water. All I could think about was that I survived a night in heels with my forever friends. These days I am just longing to be in my sandals or sneakers. Barefoot when I’m feeling free and wanting to reconnect with the earth. As I reflected on the walk back I remember Cornell lifting me up to cross the sidewalk in my heels. It’s funny how life can come full circle. I’ve always been so strong for the people in my life, but it felt transformative to let my friend carry the burden. To help me take a load off and be nurtured the same. I recall my therapist once asking, “Who will you allow to be there for you?” Life is good because I found the space to allow others to uplift me.

    I woke up the next morning feeling so refreshed. We were enjoying murder podcasts every night and I was getting the best sleep of my life. Whenever I’m away from my son I quickly realize how sleep deprived I am. I mean who else but a mother would collapse into the couch before the midnight hour of her birthday? It was well deserved sleep and I wasn’t going to feel bad about it. That morning we started up the drinking and more Insecure, paired with sweet and savory spring rolls better than any Chinese carry out in your local hood. And just when we had the fear of the rain pouring down on us, the sun opened up and we made our way to the pool. Sitting in the sun is a form of self care. Being seen for you is beautiful. Showing up just as I am was liberating. Red lips. Soft, brown skin. Tight bikini. A few scars and zebra stripes, but those don’t matter because they paint the portrait of my existence. I had finally peeled back the layers allowing my growth to be seen and celebrated. I met another amazing human named Greg. We instantly connected and were chatting as if we had known one another in a past life. We talked about life. Music. Traveling. Believing in yourself and making shit really happen. The white sangria was on chill and the positive energy was on high. We all returned to the Garden Oasis and nestled into the evening. Good music was rotated on YouTube and endless laughs were shared. I think we streamed WAP on YouTube more times than I can remember. Motherhood isn’t about hiding about your sexuality and feminism. Life is good when you can embrace your inner ratchet.

    When Sunday arrived I was feeling the anxiety kick in. I love to come home, but each time I arrive at the end of it all I feel overwhelmingly sad. I didn’t let it get to me, and I decided to partake in more tv binging. The mixture of Moesha and Insecure was all I needed to soothe my anxiety. Our trip to Total Wine was the perfect excursion and the afternoon mimosas made it all worth it. I was anticipating the Sunday surprise, while enjoying the afternoon with one of my best girlfriends. There is nothing like being able to pick up exactly where you left off when seeing old friends. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but meaningful connections will always make the foundation survive. After we grabbed a photo for the sake of memories and shared our hugs, I returned to the cozy couch anticipating what would be next. Before I knew it there was a knock on the door and there stood my sister with the cutest pregnant belly. As if the weekend wasn’t already perfect, I got to spend time with my baby sis and nephew. It was a great day and I got to experience Korean bbq for the first time. Bottomless food and liquor is the way to my heart if you aren’t noticing a trend here. A gal has gotta eat well! More importantly, I brought in a new year of life with amazing people. Although I was sad to see my sister go, my heart was full because she made a special trip across the Bay Bridge just to see me. I reflected on how good it is to know that you are loved and celebrated. It felt like thirty had already won. Life is good when you see the beauty of growing old.

    On the last day of my trip I felt so at odds. I was having so much fun and yet, I equally yearned to see my guys at home. Motherhood and friendships are all about balance. Those who truly support you know the intricate struggle of maintaining both worlds. It’s not easy and I was just grateful to enjoy another home cooked meal with genuine people. To grab my Royal Farms Hoagie and ride with the windows down to the airport. Feeling the warm breeze blanket my face and shield my tears. The ride there felt like an eternity and I dreaded each mile we got closer to BWI. We listened to Whitney Houston and Beyoncé on the car ride and chuckled about how my husband scared Donte driving through Atlanta traffic. He made sure we didn’t miss our dinner reservation at Iberian Pig in Buckhead. In that moment I found some happiness reminiscing over all the good times we’ve had, and knowing that we would create a 1000 more memories. And just as dramatic as you would expect it to be, we embraced for a long hug. I’ve learned that goodbye is never a proper term, and we should always honor life as it is - in the present. We should honor the next time. The next place. The anticipation of joy. Happiness. Life is to be celebrated and not wished away. It’s about showing up whether close or far, and living life to the fullest. I lived in the moment and for the first time I embraced the arrival of my enlightening decade. Where the dust settles over my twenties, and my wisdom rises in thirty won. Life is good when you embrace the moment.

    Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels