• Jessi Stone

Season of the Leo

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

As I write this it’s about 5:30 p.m. and 63 degrees at 5000 ft elevation along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

For my 35th birthday, I decided to book a room at Pisgah Inn for the first time. I wanted to wake up on my birthday in a nice king-size hotel bed and pretend I’m far, far away from civilization overlooking the mountains.


It was a little splurge, but you can’t beat the views — not to mention I'm close to plenty of trails to pick from in the morning. I’m sitting on the back deck overlooking Mt. Pisgah and what seems like a million other mountain peaks and drinking a tall glass of red wine. Just chilling and waiting for our dinner reservation at 6:45. It’s so quiet and peaceful up here. I can hear the low chatters of other couples staying beside and above us. A large bird just flew by and it’s so quiet I can hear the wings beneath his wings as he climbs to a higher altitude.


It's been a stressful birthday month for me! Yes, I like to find ways to celebrate my birthday throughout the month of August. I've found that this is helpful when you're birthday falls in the middle of a week or if your actual birthday weekend doesn't turn out the way you want, well you have a few other weekends to make it count.


I was determined to get out of the office Wednesday by 1 p.m. to get to a massage appointment and then get ready to head to the inn. Of course I plan all this the same day we’re trying to launch our very first issue of Rumble — a new digital newsletter for women. Luckily I have amazing colleagues that helped pull the trigger after I left.


The massage at Waynesville Yoga Center was also well deserved. I’ve put a lot of work into this new project the last couple of months in addition to my million other editorial duties and have been fairly stressed as of late with everything on my plate. But it also felt extremely rewarding to get the first newsletter out the gate and take a little break for my birthday.


Some people make fun of me for making such a fuss of my birthday month. What’s the big deal, right? Just another year around the sun, one year older and hopefully another year wiser. Many blame it on me being a stereotypical Leo who enjoys the spotlight and to be doted upon, but it's more than that.


I’ve made a habit of making my birthday a big deal because it's usually the one time of the year that I do try to celebrate myself, reflect on the year and set new goals for the next year. As much as I try to involve my friends and family in my birthday plans, I don’t expect others to plan anything for me or give gifts. I just want them with me to create new memories.


But I'll admit, I've run into the problem of trying to outdo myself each year. Last year Matt took me to see two of my all -time favorites Brandi Carlile and Heart in Atlanta and it was amazing. Then the girls and I did a LaZoom comedy tour and dinner in Asheville and I've never laughed so hard in my life. We also watched the sunset while having a drink at the Montford Rooftop Bar.

I’ve seen Dixie Chicks for my birthday, Old Crow Medicine Show a few years ago, John Mayer, and who knows how many other memorable concerts. A couple of years ago, Matt took me up to The Swag for one of their extravagant summer picnics and then we drove up to Hot Springs for a soak in the mineral springs. Three years ago there was a full blown solar eclipse for my birthday - how do you beat that shit?

For my 30th, I had a Big Lebowski themed pub crawl around Waynesville that was fairly epic and a night many will remember forever — good or bad! People dressed up as characters from the movie and we crawled from Frog Level to Boojum to Tipping Point to Mad Anthony’s beer garden where my buddies’ band was playing. We drank, danced and bowled all night. Such good times. That was probably the night I really felt I’d found my community.


August tends to be a bustling month in WNC - band gigs, live music every night, beer festivals, cookouts and floats down the river. There's never a shortage of things to do, but COVID-19 has made 2020 celebrations a bit different this year. Matt bought us tickets before the pandemic to see Maren Morris in Atlanta but of course it was canceled.


The night at Pisgah Inn was nice — dinner was fabulous — but it was so foggy the next morning we couldn't see out of the window. We tried to hike around 10 a.m. but it was still so foggy you couldn't see any of the vistas. I was feeling a bit dizzy and weak as well, which made the hike that much more difficult. We got home around noon and it rained all day on my birthday and again all day Friday so my plans for outdoor adventuring and bonding time with Matt went to hell in a hand basket.


The girls and I had some ambitious plans last Saturday to celebrate our August birthdays. We planned a hike and swim at Midnight Hole followed by a horseback ride out in Fines Creek, but it rained... again.


We did to go out Friday night to get tattoos together. I finally got my Kurt Vonnegut quote "So it goes..." on my arm. Then we enjoyed a meal together at Firefly Taps & Grill. Michelle ordered a chocolate hazelnut cake we all shared. My friend Carolyn Moncada made it and I highly recommend her cakes! Check out Fancy Flour Baking Company.


So even though I was bummed some of my plans fell through, I'm trying to focus on all the nice moments I've had. When I came home bummed from the foggy hike, my dad had left me a sweet card and roses on my dining room table after watching the dogs while we were away. As Matt went back to work on Saturday, I went down to Sautee, GA to see my family. Mom made me my favorite comfort foods — fried squash, fresh tomatoes, creamed corn and green beans — all from my Aunt BB's garden. I got to love on my niece and nephew and share a few drinks with my brother and sister-in-law.


As a Leo (or simply someone who struggles with controlling situations), I know I set some pretty high expectations for things in my life but when I really think about it, these are the moments that count. Laughs between friends. Food between family. Quiet time between lovers. Beautiful reminders that life sometimes has other plans but it doesn't mean they're any worse or better than the plans you tried to make for yourself.


However you choose to celebrate, living another year is something worthy of celebration. Surviving, thriving, growing, learning — all that should be recognized.

We spend so much time during the year worrying, stressing and doubting ourselves, I don't think one month of self-love is selfish at all.


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