Birthday Surprise

If there is one thing that Josh has always been good it, it’s a great surprise.  And with my 40th birthday this past June, it’s no surprise that he came up with something big but also caught me completely out of left field.

Let me back track a moment.  My big day itself was a bit of a letdown.  The kids acted a bit selfishly when I was opening my 3 gifts.  The 3 gifts (which were clothes) didn’t fit me (and I still haven’t been able to return part of it thanks to Massimo Dutti’s terrible customer service).  I was 4000 miles away from my friends and family.  I had very few connections here in the Netherlands at that time.  Initiate massive meltdown.  I spent most of my 40th birthday in the fetal position in bed wishing it would all just go away.

However, there was one gift that I hadn’t opened.  Ok, let’s be realistic, I opened it on my birthday even though it said DO NOT OPEN UNTIL AUGUST.  I’m not always a very good listener.  In the envelope was a picture of a sailboat that stated it was actually a B & B, located on Martha’s Vineyard (an island off Cape Cod for those not in the know).  Hmmmm…. not really sure what this is??  Josh isn’t going to be on the Cape in August as he’s going back to the Netherlands before that.  Did he buy a B & B and not tell me?  In which case I’m really annoyed that he’s spent that kind of money and didn’t talk to me.  Who in the world would I be going to a B & B with in August on the Vineyard??

I put the envelope aside and didn’t really think much of it.  It was packed in my luggage for the big trip.  As I was planning my trip home, I made a few plans – not many – in advance.  I attempted to make plans with my friends Caryn and Urs who live out of state for one weekend.  I didn’t hear back from them right away and interestingly, my mom (who works every weekend) called up the next day and asked if I’d put that weekend in my calendar because she really wanted to spend it with me. “But why mom?  You only work 3 days a week and you have 4 days off during the week so why can’t we spend time together then?”  To which she replied “because I really want to spend a weekend with you.”  That’s all I needed.  Even without hearing back from Caryn and Urs on the initial email, I emailed them and said my mom has asked that I do something with her and can we pick a different weekend.  “Interestingly” they got right back to me on that one 😉  Oh if I only I’d pieced these things together in advance!!

Occasionally I would ask my mom if she’d actually gotten the weekend in question off.  It was always met with the response “I’m working on it”.  And so I continued on with that weekend on hold for some quality time with my mom.

About a week before the weekend with my mom (during which we had no actual plans set), my best friend Michelle texted me to ask if I had any plans for that weekend because a friend of hers had a house on the Vineyard and it was available that weekend if we wanted to go.  So I went back to my mom to see if she had managed to get that weekend off or not yet.  She told me to go ahead with Michelle and we would do something the following week.

I texted Josh to say that i was going to the Vineyard that weekend with Michelle.  I hadn’t yet pieced anything together (god I’m dumb sometimes!).  But that night, it dawned on me.  THIS is the B & B trip that Josh had put in the envelope.  The next day I went to my mom and accusingly put the paper in front of her and said “You didn’t even attempt to get this weekend off did you??”.  “No, she replied…. you can’t let anything be a secret can you???”.  Nope, I’ve got your number, Josh’s and Michelle’s.  I have figured this whole thing out.  I was damn proud of myself too!!

Ha!!!!  I should know better than to think Josh would make it that easy.  I told him that night (he was in Japan) that I had figured it all out.  He sounded rather annoyed that I hadn’t allowed him to surprise me.  Also all a ruse apparently.

So now that I’m almost 800 words in, I should give you what actually happened now that you’ve got the background 😉  Fast forward to the weekend in question.  Michelle and I were meeting at the Fishmonger, a restaurant in WoodsHole near the ferry. She was coming from Boston and I was coming from the ‘burbs.  I was ahead of her and we agreed that we would meet at the restaurant.  But when she said she was on the next (shuttle) bus, I decided to just wait for her at the ferry terminal.  One bus disembarks… the second one disembarks.  I have no cell service so I just wait.  The third bus comes and I stand up once again to look to see if Michelle is getting off. But oddly, she instead runs up to me from my left (the bus being in front of me to the right) asking why I’m not at the restaurant????

Caught off guard, I ask her why she isn’t on the bus.  She said she got off a few buses ago.  I respond… “um no, I’ve been standing here the whole time”.  My back is now to the bus.  She tells me she needs to use the bathroom.  So wait… you want to use the ferry terminal bathroom instead of the one at the restaurant????  Really???? This is all seeming rather odd and I’m totally confused at this point.  I turn around…

And there are two of my best college friends – Lori and Ursula – getting off the bus. I’m in shock.  This I was not expecting.  My best laid plan decoding is out the window.  I run up to them in tears, totally overwhelmed by the fact they they are here.  Especially Lori who lives in the DC area and I know had to not only fly, but to leave her baby girl behind in order to be here with me.  And Urs who I’d just seen a few weeks before but didn’t ever utter a single word about this surprise.  I was truly speechless.

My WTF face - what in the world are they doing here?????

My WTF face – what in the world are they doing here?????

Totally shocked, surprised, thrilled and a million other emotions.

Totally shocked, surprised, thrilled and a million other emotions.

Emotional hellos

Emotional hellos

Emotional hellos

Emotional hellos

Urs, Julie, Lori

Urs, Julie, Lori

I was beyond over taken with emotions here.  These guys had gone above and beyond to make my big day so incredibly special and not only did they make it special, they hid it from me (no easy task) during many conversations!!

We went over to the Fishmonger for breakfast and yet another surprise.  My other best friend Caryn arrived!!!  So here I am with my closest friends for a weekend on the Vineyard.  I seriously could not thank Josh enough for making this happen.  I’m a lucky girl to have a husband / best friend who is not only so considerate, but also in this case, sneaky!!

Unfortunately Michelle wasn’t able to join us for the weekend as she already had plans to be in Maine for the week.  But the fact that she came all the way from Boston to WoodsHole just to be in on the surprise and have breakfast with us before turning right back to Boston says all you need to know about the type of friend she is.  I can’t wait for her 40th next year!!

Lori, Julie, Urs, Caryn and Michelle

Lori, Julie, Urs, Caryn and Michelle

And so off we went to the Vineyard.  The piece of paper that Josh gave me was in fact the place we would be heading for the weekend.  A weekend on a sailboat B & B, apparently the only one on the Vineyard.  Situated in Oak Bluffs, it was a great jumping off location for all that we wanted to do. Only I didn’t get to plan any of the things we were doing.  Because everything was still a secret, down to when we would get a taxi and I would need to stand on the other side of the road while they explained to the taxi driver where we needed to go.

I don’t know all the details of who planned what but it’s my understanding that Josh arranged the B & B and getting everyone there and then my friends took over from there.  If I’m wrong, I’m sorry!!  I didn’t ask and they didn’t tell.  But the plans made for probably the best weekend I’ve had in a very very long time.

Our home for the weekend

Our home for the weekend

We spent the first afternoon just wandering around Oak Bluffs as there were big plans for the evening.  The evening entailed doing something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the opportunity.  Kayaking!  I’ve always let my fears prevent me from doing it, but not this time.  And it was AWESOME!  Why have I waited so long to do this?  Not only did we tandem kayak out in one of the inlets of the Vineyard, we did it during sunset.

Group shot

Group shot

Caryn and Lori

Caryn and Lori

Julie and Urs on the kayak

Julie and Urs on the kayak

Gorgeous clouds over the water

Gorgeous clouds over the water

Sunset

Sunset

All of us at sunset

All of us at sunset

After the sun was starting to set, we made our way over to a beach (just across from Diane Sawyer’s Vineyard house!) for a brief break and snack.  We had to wait until it was dark for the next part.  Dark????????  There’s things in the water you can’t see in the dark though!!!

Slightly anxious but at the same time excited about what could possibly next on an already epic evening, I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen.  I was in no way prepared for what to expect.  It turns out the waters on the Vineyard during the month of August ONLY are bioluminescent.  Who knew?  We don’t have any photos of what it looked like, but I can tell you that it was magical.  Running your fingers along the top of the water and have it light up like fireflies under the water was otherworldly.  Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  If you don’t know what bioluminescence is, check out this explanation on wikipedia.  All I know is that Josh, the kids and I are definitely going back next year so they can experience it too!

The next day (as if things could get any better), we went biking all around the Vineyard.  But we didn’t just bike – we biked with an aim of visiting lighthouses, one of my favorite things to look at on any beach trip!  It wasn’t too hot out which was nice but we still worked mighty hard getting ourselves all around the island.  The good thing is that we started out early in order to beat all the crowds that would later by doing the same thing.  It was quiet, peaceful and the sights along the way – stunning.

Caryn and Urs ready for biking!

Caryn and Urs ready for biking!

Julie and Lori

Julie and Lori

Walking out to Edgartown Harbor Light

Walking out to Edgartown Harbor Light

The harbor by Lighthouse beach.

The harbor by Lighthouse beach.

Edgartown Harbor Light

Edgartown Harbor Light

In between lighthouses, we stopped at this amazing little charcuterie for some breads, meats and cheeses and proceeded to have a fabulous little upscale picnic before heading towards East Chop Lighthouse.

DSC00905.JPG

DSC00906.JPG

We eventually made it to East Chop Lighthouse and it was still only mid afternoon. We’d covered a lot of miles during the day – if I recall it was something between 15-20.  Not bad for a morning out!

Pretty sure this has the flag of the Black Dog

Pretty sure this has the flag of the Black Dog

A dock that

A dock that “needed” it’s picture taken

East Chop Light

East Chop Light

With a few hours to spare before our next “excursion” we chose to just chill out a bit on the boat.  I forgot to mention that the owner was not there while we were there. She explained everything about the boat and then left, stating if we need anything to just call or ask the people on the boat next door.  So we were really on our own just hanging out on the boat.  Thankfully no one fell into the drink, especially when climbing on and off the boat which was an exercise in flexibility and strength at times depending on the tides!

Our final evening had us in Chilmark for what is supposed to be the most magnificent sunsets on the Vineyard at Menemsha Beach.  It did not disappoint. While we had crowds of people around us, it wasn’t overwhelming.  We loved the people who brought their own little tables and chairs and set up little lobster dinners while waiting for the sun to do it’s thing.  Bonus is that we think we saw Obama’s daughter (he was vacationing there that week and arrived the same day as us) while we were there!

Enjoying some champagne as we wait for the sun to set.

Enjoying some champagne as we wait for the sun to set.

Attempting (I use the term loosely) some sunset selfies ;)

Attempting (I use the term loosely) some sunset selfies 😉

A spectacular sunset

A spectacular sunset

Successful selfie with Urs

Successful selfie with Urs

We had someone take our picture for us - we actually loved the creative way she took it!

We had someone take our picture for us – we actually loved the creative way she took it!

One heart, one way... Sigma Kappa

One heart, one way… Sigma Kappa

Sunset

Sunset

An even brighter moment

An even brighter moment

Attempting a panoramic

Attempting a panoramic

Dinner was at a farm to table restaurant but it wasn’t without it’s challenges (and lots of laughter) getting to it.  As we had to go down what we would define as a main road, with no street lights and no sidewalk and lots of curves, we finally decided it would behoove us to use the flashlight on our phones so cars would see us.  It was work the trek (which really wasn’t all that far, just adventurous) for the fabulous meal and one last toast to an amazing weekend with old friends!

Dinner at a farm to table restaurant - the perfect end to an amazing weekend.

Dinner at a farm to table restaurant – the perfect end to an amazing weekend.

All of us at dinner

All of us at dinner

Once again, I can’t say thank you enough for not just my friends for taking time out of very busy schedules, time away from family and making the time to help me to ring in a milestone birthday – in style.  And to Josh, thank you for being the most amazing husband for whom I’m always thankful for but never tell you enough.  You gift made my year – thank you!

Love you all!

Knuffels en kussen,

Julie

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