The best celebrations are the ones you least expect and for that reason I've taken to celebrating on "off" days rather than the "real" ones. This might seem strange to some but to those accustomed to co-parenting you might understand the notion a bit better. Co-parenting struggles or not, I find that "off" days are more relaxed and so much more enjoyable, there's less stress, the ease of planning without a forced deadlines and, let's be honest, less expectations, which ALWAYS helps when it comes to big milestone occasions or holidays.
It all started when I was first separated and had to figure out an organization method to appease my entire family (holidays are especially pain in the ass-y) as well as my co-parent parameters for such occasions. After a couple of years full of stressful, hurried Christmas dinners and delayed or rushed Easter egg hunts, I decided it was all or nothing, either the kids would enjoy the holiday in its entirety with me or I'd simply have to concede the day. But then it dawned on me, there are certain days when the actual date doesn't matter all that much, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, even graduation celebrations. So began the tradition of non-traditional celebration days. If I didn't have the girls for Easter Sunday, we did a fish fry on Good Friday, if is it wasn't my scheduled Thanksgiving Thursday, we arranged a huge Sunday after Thanksgiving brunch, no time for grandfathers and stepdad on father's day, not a problem, we made it a whole other day in our family. Our tradition of non-tradition took form and the family was able to truly enjoy each other as the pressure was off in terms of which house who went where. By following my non-traditions my family would simply plan to go to their other commitments on days I didn't have my girls and made every effort to all be in attendance on the days that were mine. The only drawback, all the extra calories from, more often than not, celebrating each occasion more than once (like 3-4 birthday cakes per occasion kind of more than once).
When my Sophie's high school graduation was upon us, I was able to plan surprise celebration a whole two months AFTER her graduation and just in time for her dorm move-in without anyone finding it strange. We enjoyed her actual ceremony date at leisure without the stress of family time scheduling, we travelled for our mom/daughter grad trip tradition, sorted out what she needed for her dorm, created a registry and then I surprised her with a little "Taco 'bout a future" themed fiesta. No co-parenting time constraints, no deadlines, no conflicting work schedules, just fun and family. It was perfect!
Even though our entire family has "graduated" from the co-parenting constraints being that my two girls from my previous marriage are aged out of all that, we plan to continue the tradition as to facilitate everyone's needs and the sometimes demanding requirements of other families (in-laws, parents and such). So when we have our date to celebrate or commemorate, it is a time where we can kick back, soak in the occasion and truly enjoy each other's company without having to cut it short to get to someone else's house or feeling squeezed to get it all in in one day. We take the time to celebrate the times and give actual time the middle finger, taco 'bout a party every time. ;)
I made a mistake the other day, I mentioned that we like to "get away" and I was wrong. We don't like to "get away" but rather we like to live for the day. And, as often as we can, we live the day away from our day to day.
This summer, like most, seemed to be slipping away with us entrenched at work as the sunny skies floated by. Ernie and I have a tradition of celebrating our engagement anniversary (blog post staycations-celebrating-the-little-things.html) but our scheduling conflicts at work have made more than one tradition this year a bit difficult to see through. About two weeks Ernie said, "just book something and we'll make it happen".
The GOALS for that "something":
At first we thought VEGAS BABY, since we had already missed going as planned for Ernie's 40th birthday, but the idea of baking in the dessert sun with only resort pools or adult pool parties as reprieve was off putting (not that I don't love a good pool party but I wanted more water than that) and the thought of losing so much in travel time when we only had 4 days was stressful which eliminated quite a few other options as well. The search was on! I went through cruise options, all inclusive resorts and even started considering forgoing one of the goals until it hit me. What about Bimini?!
I had avoided Bimini for so long because I rarely hit up places during a launch or craze. The idea of getting on a ferry and being schlepped to a place that didn't sound all too prepared for tourism while still forcing it into place was just not for me. So I did what I usual do when faced with only cliché options, I started my research. It was not looking good for Bimini during my sleepless 2am quests. It seemed our only options were the Hilton resort or a villa of some sort which all seemed quite costly for a 3 night stay plus a ferry ride. All options ranging from $350-$1000 per night. The Hilton includes transportation on the ferry but tacks on a $25 resort fee per night, offers no real beach front option and, as a hotel with traditional hotel rooms, quickly falls low on my list. The moment I came upon THE ONE alternative to the typical Bimini trip it was a done deal. I did what I rarely do and booked in that moment, even paying for the stay in advance.
Typically, we only book travel to and from a place and perhaps the first night's stay but Bimini is tricky and I still had much to learn about the tiny 7 mile long island. Having booked our stay I still had to figure out which way to get there and with very few options from which to choose I decided to go with www.frs-caribbean.com/ being that it was our first time and we don't mind boat rides (it also helped that I had found a promo code). I exhausted myself looking for rental cars and other on island transport options and Ernie said, "let's just wait till we get there and we'll figure it out". Now, we have a bit of experience with impromptu vacations and "winging it" but I don't recommend that sort of attitude when heading to Bimini. We got "lucky" or rather worked our usual travel tactics which aren't for the faint at heart but to avoid all that let me break it down for you, there are NO rental car companies on Bimini, only one scooter place that has a whole two scooters for rent and it's far from where they drop you off from any transport, there are barely any bikes and boats can't access all areas due to shallow waters and lack of dockage. So....you have two choices, okay three but barely, pray that you can get one of the 3 taxis on the island for hire (I saw people waiting hours for one), stay confined to resort shuttle which includes a tourist shopping strip, two beaches and the resort itself or....rent a golf cart. Rent the golf cart, trust me. They are costly, at $90/day as well as some additional fees and taxes (now 12% VAT which the Bahamian government recently increased from 7%). Some companies will drop off the golf cart at the resort for you and pick it up when you are done.
On Island TRANSPORTATION
Golf Cart options:
Elite Golf Cart Rentals elitegolfcartrental.com/rates/ they charge $30 for gas if you don't return refueled which is unlikely given that there is only on gas station on the entire island and it's pricing is not worth the trek so you'll just have to pay for the gas. They are available right at the Hilton Resort.
Sue and Joys 242-347-6082 are at Fisherman's Village which is part of the Resorts World and one of the ferry tram stops, seaplane arrival port and tourist shopping area within the gateway resort area.
We, however, went with Vincent who is a local and whose number I now need to track down. Our golf cart was cheap, two seats, no brakes and only one working light but...he refueled us when he drove by us once and didn't tag on any added fees. I'm using this guy again. How did I find him you may ask...it's shady business only reserved for the expert wing it traveler but I'll post his number here and you can call him for a legit transaction. ;)
As far as FOOD goes, that might have to be it's own post so I'll just highlight a few quick tips:
Bimini tips & highlights:
We almost accomplished all of our goals. The water's majesty took away all of our gambling interests as we trekked every inch of the island's beaches and ended up heading to bed way earlier than usual for us (11pm the latest during our 3 night stay). But being awakened by the soft morning sun through our bungalow's bedside view of the sunrise each morning. Feeling renewed and inspired by the little island of Bimini whose awe-inspiring colors have left us wanting for more. "There ain't no place like Bimini" that's for sure!
I'm sure it happens to everyone, you're driving along doing your thing and the radio starts to play a song that takes you to a very specific moment in your life. You see the memory in your mind's eye playing right before as the words chime along. You feel the moment over your entirety. It's as if you were there once again, so long as the song keeps playing. Strange phenomena. Sometimes sweet and love filled and others so far from it that you fight to get passed the song as quickly as possible as to eradicate the memory altogether with the simple switch of a station. The songs' purpose varies from sleek dance moves at middle school house parties to break-up anthems and road trip compilations. Whatever the occasion/memory it moves you.
The beauty of music is that it encompasses emotions in a way that helps you feel you are not alone. Whether it's on a grey street or wanting to party all night long, music embodies our desires, thoughts, feelings so that we don't have to say anything at all, we just ask the DJ to please play that song. Right now that song for me is actually JLo's Dinero, I really do feel it deep inside my soul..."yo quiero, yo quiero dinero, hey!". But when I am more quiet and reflective it's Dave who is steering my soundtrack.
For me, Dave Matthews Band has pretty much hit the nail on the head with at least one song per major instance in my life. I could piece together the soundtrack of my life's challenges from DMB's many albums including their acoustic tracks, Dave's solos and even just him and Tim. It fascinates me to have someone sing something that feels so real to me, that speaks for my soul. If you aren't a Dave fan you've probably logged off by now but if you are you know exactly what I mean. He so easily speaks for my most inner most self.
"She says, I pray
But then my prayer fall on deaf ears
I'm supposed to take it all myself
To get out of this place....
But the colors mix together to grey"
Grey Street still chokes me up and gives me goosebumps. How did Dave know my struggles, how did he write them so well? This is what leads folks to fan-dom, when an artist is gifted with the verse of their inner most thoughts and feelings.
My husband is a perfect example of this as he claims to be incapable of fully sharing his inner most thoughts with many. I remember when he first made me a "mixtape" on a CD and my heart broke. It was as if I was reading his personal journal. The way he chose and arranged the playlist gave me such an insight to his most inner self that it shattered me to think that this cool, confidant guy was so reflective, deep and, like me, uncertain without my having realized. The first time he told me he loved me was by embracing me in a soft dance on my front porch and singing the words to "Loving Wings" by DMB into my ear,
"You lightly lifted me away
Out of a darkness, cold and gray
And I work beneath the midday sun
My cool blue water you have come
I give to you my everything
You've given me these loving wings
and angels have all gathered round
to hear me sing my love out loud"...
Dave Matthews Band is us, as cheesy and as fan dorkiness as that might sound. Sure, I jam to Pitbull's Miami-ness, I shake my ass to Sir Mix-a-lot's "I like Big Butts" and there isn't a Lionel Richie or John Cougar Mellancamp song that I don't know but Dave sings the songs of my soul. Many years ago, a friend of ours gave us the moniker "GERNIE" for Gina and Ernie; we quickly adapted it as it felt authentically us in that we were in fact on a wondrous journey, my husband and me taking the path less traveled more often than not with a few Griswolds moments along the way and Dave singing along to the beat of our challenges but more so our hearts. Because since day one with my guy it was always..."You and me together can do anything"....and how can I not love DMB for knowing that well enough to make so many songs just for us.
You and I were not tied to the ground
Not falling but rising like rolling around
Eyes closed above the rooftops
Eyes closed we're gonna spin through the stars
Our arms wide as the sky, we're gonna ride the blue
All the way to the end of the world
To the end of the world
We can always look back at what we did
Always remembering how you and me did
Right now it's you and me forever girl
And you know, we could do better than
Anything that we did
You know that you and me
We could do anything...
Two of us together, we could do anything baby.....
Multi-tasking over-thinker that is, as you can imagine, often running late.