How I salvaged my birthday celebration during a Global Pandemic

True story, when Covid-19 hit hard in March I was laughing at all the Aries babies.  Just knowing they had to shut down their birthday party plans cracked me up.  Fast forward to July and just look at us… LOOK AT US! How do you ‘turn up’ during the hottest months of the year at home? <insert crying Michael Jordan meme>. I seriously had no idea what I would be able to do or if my friends would be comfortable doing “it” with me given the current circumstances.  I thought about brunch on my deck, but you know… Coronavirus.  Then I thought about brunch at a restaurant, but you know… Coronavirus.  To keep it safe, I figured it would be best to just not do a thing with anyone else outside of my family.

So now that I knew who I was rolling with, my husband and our son, it was time to figure out where we were rolling to.  A quick Expedia search let me know that international traveling was still ‘a thing’ and is cheaper than ever if you want to risk it – and I’ll be honest, we almost did.  Uh-uh, don’t judge me… LOL.  It was hard passing up a 5 day stay in a premium suite, all inclusive resort hotel in Jamaica with roundtrip airfare included for 3 passengers for only $1500! See, now you’re rethinking your travel plans too!

Since traveling internationally would be too risky I instead started to research some national landmarks that were within driving distance and decided to visit Niagara Falls, D.C and Central Park. We kicked off this week-long road trip by spending the weekend in Niagara Falls.  Now, being born and raised in New York… you know… REAL New York, visiting Niagara Falls was never on our bucket lists. In fact, we consider any part of New York outside of the city (all five boroughs and parts of Westchester County) to be Canada.  It doesn’t matter if you live in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, etc.  If you’re not from the city, you’re from Canada.  Ask a New Yorker.

The drive to Niagara falls from Maryland took about 7.5 hours.  We drove through western Maryland which is absolutely beautiful by the way, then through the mountains of Pennsylvania and over to western New York into Buffalo.  We booked our hotel on the U.S. side and once we arrived at our hotel we hit the ground running and immediately headed out to cross Rainbow Bridge (the bridge that connects the U.S. to Canada) but you guessed it… Coronavirus. Unfortunately only essential personnel were allowed to cross so we were left stuck at the gate with no way to enter – whomp, whomp. From there we visited Niagara Falls park which to my surprise places you extremely close to the edge of the falls. If you’re afraid of heights, then this may not be a good look for you.

G and I attempting to cross Rainbow Bridge into Canada
Team Gross ready to kick off our Niagara Falls adventure

Our last day in Niagara falls happened to be my birthday, so to celebrate we purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat tour.  Alright, I’ve been dying to tell you all about this experience so here goes. This boat tour is not truthful with its name…. LOL. There was no ‘misting’ involved except for what you may feel while waiting in line.  Riding on this boat gave me horrible flashbacks of the opening to Gilligan’s Island. It rocked, it shook, people screamed (with excitement I assume) and then….. the downpour! I mean buckets and buckets of water splashed all over the boat and on ME! Yes, we were all wearing upside down blue hefty trash bags but we might as well have worn nothing. I swear I quickly tucked my lil ponytail in my plastic hood, threw on my shades and secured my mask for dear life.  I was looking like the Unabomber in all my gear… LOL. Where’s the lie?

Next up, Washington, D.C.  So this is sort of a freebie for me because technically I already live about 15 minutes away from our nation’s capital so traveling here is effortless however, there is still so much I don’t know about the city so exploring its history is still on my to do list. And what better way to explore than to do it on a bike? 

With four bikes strapped to our SUV (we brought along our nephew as well) we set out to cruise the city in 90+ degree weather.  I swear this idea sounded a lot better when we planned it a week before when it was 75 degrees. Because of the current global pandemic, tourism is currently down which made it extremely easy to find parking.  We parked adjacent to the Monument and began our journey from there. Now, the fun begins. 

Picture it, my grown butt on a pink and purple bike with a super narrow seat peddling my heart out around the monument, the white house, Black Lives Matters plaza, the MLK memorial and more.  Read this part slowly, my rear end is not a perfect match for my narrow bicycle seat. When I tell you I ached….. I tell you NO LIE!  We rode for nearly 9 miles, dodged a flock of angry geese, ducked under the limbs of low hanging trees one of which nearly claimed my ponytail, and I narrowly lived to tell this story…. Whew! It was definitely an experience to remember but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Luckily, I had 3 days to rest my … yea.. before we closed out my birthday week with another trip to New York. 

Me after riding all the way up to the base of the Monument.
Black Lives Matter street mural

Our final stop on my birthday week tour landed us in Central Park. My husband is a big Law & Order fan and has seen corners of Central Park on the show countless times.  It’s been a big deal for him to see it up close and personal so we figured this would be the perfect time to check it out.  I say we because as a native New Yorker that was born and raised in the great borough of The Bronx just 17 miles away from the park, I’ve never been there either. Just wasn’t something we desired to do growing up I guess. 

Gassed up yet again, we hit the road for our 4 hour trip where we made our first stop in The Bronx – of course.  There’s no way I’m coming to the city without seeing my family! After a few greetings, jokes and dropping off our son we jumped back in our SUV to our intended destination. Nope, not catching the train this time, because you know…. Coronavirus. Unlike D.C, tourism has picked back up in New York and we were unable to find parking on the street so we paid a ridiculous amount to park in a garage.  Small price to pay to be able to travel in the city without riding the subway riddled with viruses I suppose.  As we walked towards the park I quickly realized that this is not going to be an easy leisurely stroll through the park.  For starters, it’s 96 degrees and the humidity was awful.  Next, half of the city was already in the park, skating, bike riding, skateboarding, tanning, picnicking, celebrating, dog walking and who knows what else.  Social distancing did not exist in the park this afternoon but luckily it is large enough for us to keep our distance from others. We walked a bit until my husband spotted the sponsored bikes by Citi Bank and had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to ride around the park.  Ride? Me? On another bike? Sir! Not a chance…LOL! Not knowing where to go, we grabbed a map from a nearby information booth and began our walk through the park.  We visited a few iconic points of interests such as, Sheep Meadow, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Reservoir, and the Bow Bridge where someone set up a beautiful memorial for the late Naya Rivera. I must say, the park is absolutely beautiful. It really is, and it holds so much rich history that I wished we had more time to explore it all. Sadly, it was still very hot and we were tired of dodging people coughing or simply not wearing a face mask so we decided to head back to our SUV to begin our journey home. 

Melting in the sun in front of the Bethesda Fountain

My 39th trip around the sun couldn’t have been better or spent with better people.  Although the Coronavirus is still running rampage throughout the world, I was glad I was still able to enjoy my special day by doing things and exploring places I normally would not have.

Has your birthday plans been interrupted because of the spread of the Coronavirus? Did you celebrate in a different way this year? Let me know below.  Don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on social media @WithLove_Meek for more candid conversations and daily lifestyle updates.

With Love, Meek

Black Lives Matter and so does your sanity

Let’s cut to the chase – this past week has been one hell of a ride.  Black Lives Matter protest have been held in every state in the country not to mention the hundreds that have been held globally. The pride that swells up in me when I watch thousands of black and brown people bravely standing in solidarity with other races with their fists raised high in the air from every corner of the county is indescribable. What was easy to ignore before is almost impossible to ignore now as thousands of peaceful protesters continue to march in the streets daily to voice their frustration over the wrongful killing of George Floyd.

For nearly two weeks, we’ve all experienced an intense roller coaster of emotions. Some of us, like myself, were forced to paint on our ‘happy’ faces as we joined Zoom meeting after meeting after meeting at our 9-5’s and struggle as we tried to answer the ever-annoying question of, “Are you ok?”. Side note, we’re not ok.   I’ll even bet the notification sound on your phone has probably been working overtime because your friends continue to send you BLM related updates every ten minutes. Am I right? You want to stay connected but mentally, emotionally, and physically you’re drained – well at least I am or should I say, I was. I finally decided to unplug daily to keep myself centered and I’m going to share my routine below with the intention that it will help at least one other person. And to add a little ‘oomph’ to it, I’ll also share the products I use in my daily routine which happen to be from black-owned businesses.

I typically wake up between 6:30 – 7 a.m. and after the basic morning routine, I get settled in a quiet space to begin my morning meditation. I like to set the intention for my session so I’ll begin by clearing the energy in my space with lavender sage. This helps to remove any negative energy and restores emotional balance. I purchase my bundles from The Vybe Collection. They have several other bundles available as well as Palo Santo and waist beads. Next, with my space now cleared, I’ll play a few frequencies on my singing bowl and then apply protection oil to ward off any negative interactions I may encounter throughout the day.  Master manifestor Ty Johnson Anderson, of Spiritually Bougie, offers a protection oil called, “On the mainline” that I swear by.  I’ve used this oil before entering intense meetings with people at my job that are usually nasty to me and have come out of those meetings without a scratch! Trust me, during these uncertain times, you want an extra layer of protection to keep you covered from the enemy you can’t see. You won’t find this little gem anywhere on her site, uh uh… this is top shelf honey. Send her an email and let her know you’d like a bottle.

After about 15 minutes of meditating, I’ll move on to the next step of my routine which is journaling.  The feelings that I feel are valid but most of them are negative because of the hurt that I’m visually ingesting daily. To release this, I’ll imagine the negativity in my heart chakra physically move from the center of my chest, down to my arms, down to my hands, through the pen and onto the paper.  Once I’ve felt that I’ve moved the negative energy out I’ll begin to jot down notes of gratitude. I like to do this with a dope cup of coffee because it also signifies the start of my workday and I’m going to need the caffeine to wake me up.  These days I’m usually sipping on Boss Blend Coffee. I really like their medium roast because it has a bold flavor with no bitter after taste. 

The last step in my routine is practicing Yin Yoga in the evening after work and after I’ve likely consumed too much negative social media.  The light stretches really help to release the physical tension I’ve built up throughout the day.  Now if you know me personally you know how much I absolutely love candles so it should come as no surprise that I’m likely burning one of my favorite soy candles from Blue Lotus Candle Creations. It’s the perfect way to end the day and restore balance to your mind, body, and soul.

If you’re thinking of giving this a try, let me know.  Leave a comment below and tell me what part you’re looking forward to trying.  I really hope you enjoy it as much I do.

~With Love, Meek