Wednesday, October 27, 2010

12 New Things - Snorkeling!

Since I was surprised with a trip to Jamaica for my 30th birthday, I made an executive decision to change my list around a bit (edits can be found on the original list here), so for October my "new thing" was snorkeling!

Why do I have "new thing" in quotations? Well, last year we went to Jamaica and I attempted to snorkel once before, so it doesn't make it entirely new. The problem was that I didn't breathe properly and instead of being calm and trying to figure it out - I panicked. And when I panic, I become afraid and averse to trying the thing I panicked about again because I hate the feeling of fear that comes along with a mild panic attack.

Leave it to my husband to know when to push with something. As part of the surprise trip, he went on Amazon and bought us each a dry snorkel & mask set (meaning a snorkel that will not open if it goes underwater). Because he knows me well enough to know that when I get nervous all I need is a bit of coaxing to realize everything is going to be OK, he went in the pool with me two days in a row before anyone else got in to give me a "snorkel lesson". Day one was mostly learning to breathe above water in and out of my mouth with the snorkel, and day two was actually spending time swimming with the mask & snorkel. When I asked for a day three (there was my nervousness) - Steve looked at me for a good minute and said "OK, I'll sign us up for tomorrow's 9:30 snorkeling session".

Out in the open water. Oh boy.

Terrible picture of a nervous me on my way to snorkel. Barrington is driving the boat. He rocks.

The boat took us out a couple of miles to a dive site with a coral reef and a sunken ship. Everyone threw on their fins and hopped off the sides of the boat... except me. I was having a hard time manipulating my flippers, and when I finally got my legs over the side of the boat - I felt my chest start to tighten and I looked at the water. The panic was starting to set in - but then I heard Steve from about 10 feet away calling me. I looked up and he was smiling, and reassured me that he wasn't going anywhere until I was in the water. So... I took a deep breath, and jumped in.

...and swallowed a ton of sea water, which resulted in about 3-4 minutes of coughing to get it out of my lungs and passages. Good work, Danielle.

Once I was done returning the ocean to its rightful spot NOT in my body - I looked around and saw Steve 5 feet away from me. He looked at me and smiled, said "You can do this, I'm right here." I put my face down in the water, and Steve stayed right beside me with words of encouragement until I was comfortable pulling away from him on my own.

Look, Mom! No hands!
Just keep swimming...

We were out in the big blue ocean for about a half an hour before they called us back in. I kept my face down the whole time, and my reward was lots of hugs and smiles from Steve. What was really cool about the whole experience was that I was able to see a whole part of God's creation that humans don't typically get a chance to see. I was a silent, floating observer to the whole world down below in the deep. I saw beautiful fish swimming in coral reefs, and even had a small school swim by about a foot beneath me (I stayed still as they passed by). I understood why Steve had so loved the experience last year, and am actually a bit excited to go snorkeling with him again. I love that we have one more thing that's so cool that we can do together. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Can't Do This Fully... But...

Because I just heard about this idea yesterday and my birthday is today... I didn't really have a ton of time to get the word out about it.

However... I love the idea and hope that I can remember it for next year.

I read yesterday on Mark Batterson's blog about this concept of giving up your birthday to causes close to the heart of God. Specifically, the cause referenced is one that provides clean drinking water to communities around the globe that don't have it - something that is huge. I've been reading "The Hole in Our Gospel" and in it Richard Stearns of World Vision talks about how big of an impact having clean drinking water can have on a community. It can be the difference between being able to have access to health care and education and not having that access; those are things we take for granted as Americans.

So... I know it's short notice, but I am hoping/wondering if you would consider donating towards one of the causes below in honor of my 30th birthday.

Charity Water:  This is an organization whose mission it is to get clean drinking water to areas that need it. As I already mentioned - having access to clean water can have a giant impact on the community. The link to their organization can be found here: Charity Water.

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital: Steve and I firmly believe that every child deserves a shot at having a fun, rich childhood. Because of that we have donated regularly to St. Jude's for years. If you become a Partner in Hope (monthly gift of $30.00 or more) they will send you heart-touching stories of children whose lives have been touched by the amazing work that St. Jude's does. The link to St. Jude's can be found here: St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

Sponsor a Child: There are several places that you can reach out to in order to sponsor a child. This allows a child to have access to medical care, education, and nutritious food. Steve and I sponsor a child through Servants for Haiti, a group that several of our friends are actively involved in. I also know people who sponsor children through Compassion International. This is such an important thing to do for kids who might not otherwise be provided for. Their websites can be found here: Servants for Haiti, Compassion International.

If you are moved to donate to any of these causes, that's awesome. These organizations have powerful missions and are making great changes to the people of the world. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in donating to these causes or sponsoring a child, feel free to send them the link to this post.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Turning Thirty

Tomorrow is the first day of my thirties. Last Friday I woke up and felt energized; I knew it was going to be a good week. After all - the last week of your twenties HAS to be awesome.

Friday-Saturday: I had the opportunity to attend Beth Moore's "Living Proof Live" with some amazing ladies. What a powerful evening and morning that was - there's something spectacularly moving about hearing 2800 people singing "Amazing Grace" a-capella followed by a message reminding us to keep an eye out for the treasures that God gives in life. My friend Elyse had a great blog post this week that basically encapsulated the feeling we had coming away from the event. It took a few days to sink in for me, but it was an amazing reminder for me to slow down. For me, the most powerful point that she gave the women in attendance was that "Our treasure got thrown out in the same trash as our time." What a great message it was and I hope that I do not do what is so prone to people who attend these conferences and lose the inspiration - it's so important that I don't.

Beth Moore - That shirt cracked us up, but her passion was awesome.

Sunday: In the middle of Sam's Club I got a phone call from my good friend Priscila; that evening they would be having an impromptu campfire and we should come over. What a cool thing - just a few phone calls and they had a campfire party! There were a ton of people there, lots of good food and great conversation was had by all. We stayed until a little after 10:00, but I was in awe of what a cool thing can happen with a few phone calls, some meat, and a pile of wood.

Burn, baby, burn!

Monday: I had texted a few of our students on Sunday night to see if they wanted to come over for homemade chicken soup and some girl time. What I got was an impromptu mini-birthday party! They came to the door with flowers, cake, and a card - they even lit candles that said "30" and sang "Happy Birthday". As if the awesome conversation wasn't enough - they even convinced me (read: made me hold true to my promise) to go out with them and "jam". Incase you're wondering, "jamming" is driving around with dance music playing, singing and car-dancing. Yes, I jammed. I do a mean backseat cabbage patch. You have NO IDEA. After that - I got to watch the Patriots KILL the Dolphins with a 41-14 victory. That's right. A palindrome win.

The card plays "Celebrate" - yes, I danced when I opened the card. Twice.

Tuesday: GIRLS NIGHT!!! Steve babysat our friends' two little girls for a couple of hours while my friend Laura & I kidnapped our friend Jennifer for some Mexican food, margaritas, and Coronas. It was so nice to get out and have an awesome meal with some of my closest girlfriends. That time is so valuable - and to think that I got it twice in the same week (we also had a wine & girls night after Friday's Beth Moore event) is just an awesome blessing. I value those friendships so much.

I had to leave my phone with Steve so he could call us incase anything happened (he forgot his). When I got it back, there were 2 cute kids on my wallpaper picture.

Wednesday: Nothing special happened on Wednesday. Just a bunch of cleaning. Why? Because some woman who decided to give birth to a little girl 30 years ago is coming to visit. The nerve. Make me clean my house. (Kidding - I'm actually PUMPED for my mom to come visit this weekend!!!!)

Thursday: I went to work very excited for today to be the last day of my 20's. Around 2:00, it was time for "The Coffee Train" - 3 or 4 of us women on the aisle who go and get an afternoon beverage of warmth (be it tea or coffee) at the office Keurig. When asked if I wanted to go, I said "Sure, let me just go to the ladies' room first." Upon return to my aisle of the cube farm - 6 or 7 of my co-workers jumped out of cubicles and sang "Happy Birthday"! I was presented with a cake and a card - the cake went very well with my Green Mountain French Roast decaf. This was followed up by an amazing evening at youth group - so much fun playing Charades and spending time with our staff afterwards.

"There's cake? I guess I'll stop by..."
In a few minutes I'm going to head to bed and snuggle up with my awesome husband, falling asleep in his arms and thusly ending my last week of my twenties. I'm SO incredibly excited for my thirties. A few weeks ago when I was reading through some scripture it occurred to me that Jesus started His ministry when He was thirty. Now, I'm not by any means saying that I'm going to go out and change the world - but it did give me pause and force me to think. I can do amazing things. I've gotten out of my awkward stages. I can really start life now.

Tomorrow I turn thirty. I plan on treasuring more and breezing through without attention less. Tomorrow is a new beginning, the start of a new decade and a new phase of life. I am incredibly refreshed and energized for it.

Bring it on, Thirty.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

12 New Things - Chair Makeover

September's new thing was a bit of an adventure as it turned out. I was supposed to complete this task with my good friend Elyse, but... well...

I ordered fabric from a while ago and it sat in a corner waiting for the time for me to place it on the chairs. Elyse and I set up a time to get together and when that time came she visited my house - we were both excited. I had my handy-dandy instructions ready to go. I flipped over the first chair and saw that it was not a "normal" flat or Phillips head screw. It was (as my husband explained) a Robertson screw, and needed a screwdriver that we did not have at home.

Elyse and I set out to Sears (to get a Craftsman, because here in the Athanas household we buy Craftsman handtools). I was convinced that we needed something bigger than a size 3, which is the largest size Robertson screwdriver that we saw at Sears. We went to Home Depot - still nothing larger than a 3. Feeling somewhat dejected (but not entirely because we DID have a fantastic time hanging out), we headed back and called it a night.

Of course, after she left I took another look at the chairs and realized that I did not need one larger than a 3. Another trip to Sears and the purchase of a size 2 Robertson screwdriver did the trick. I was off to the races!

Get ready to get eliminated, Ugly Blue Seat Cover!

I measured the fabric and attached the covers following the directions I found on Wikihow. It was actually a pretty easy project and if I'm going to be totally honest - kind of fun too. Basically, you cut the squares of fabric, pull the tightly and neatly, attach it with a staple gun, and then screw the cushions back on the chair. Then VOILA - brand new chair!

Here's some pictures of the process; I'll let the captions fill you in on the rest of the process.

Checking the situation with the old corners to see how they looked when completed.

Attaching the fabric - start at the centers, work your way out, then attach the corners.

My first corner - not too shabby, I must say!
Finished cushion - all ready to be attached to the chair.

Finished! It really is like a brand new chair with that blue all covered.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seasonal Infatuation

Every year at the beginning of August, I start to get excited. Preseason NFL football begins and that is the signal of one thing - fall is right around the corner. Maybe it's the eternal New Englander in my heart, but I absolutely love the fall and feel lucky as heck that I get to experience this season every year in the area that I do.

There are a few reasons that of all the seasons I enjoy the fall the most.

Football: I've always been a football. fan. I can remember being in middle school on the phone with another friend who loved football and yelling at the TV during games. My mom would worry about me when this happened. Part of the reason I joined the marching band in high school was the free admission to the football games... as well as the ability to catch the away games, also for free. I love the game, I love the competition. To me - fall means football.

9 minute highlight reel of my favorite Patriots player - #80, Troy Brown.

Apple Everything: The fall means that the apple crops in New England are coming to harvest, which means that there's apples everywhere. Apple pie, apple cider, apple crisp. Steve and I have now gone apple picking together two years in a row and it's just a fun tradition to have. Apples are one of my favorite foods - raw, cooked, in juice form, in hard cider form, with cinnamon... love apples.

Apple Picking at Mack's in Londonderry - YES.

Beautiful Colors: Anyone who lives in New England knows what I mean when I say that we have the "gray months" around here. It starts right around the middle of November and ends sometime in mid-to-late January when the snow starts to fall a bit heavier (making things a different kind of pretty). However - before these awful, boring months kick in there is this gorgeous explosion of color. Rooms in northern New Hampshire, Vermont, and western Massachusetts book up full of "leaf peepers" looking to take in this amazing site. Besides - when they fall off and are raked in a big pile, there's nothing more fun than jumping into a big pile of freshly raked leaves.

A Shot Pre-Foliage Peak: Lincoln, NH

The Air: Some people hate that fall chill - but I love it. It's crisp, it's not too cold yet, it's got a unique feeling to it. The fall air reminds me of walking to school and running my feet through the leaves that had accumulated, taking in deep breaths and just loving life with every step. I can't wait for the rain to break this weekend (and the darned heat!) so I can take a run in it on Sunday morning.

The Food: There's something about football and apples that brings about some awesome food. Chili, apple crisp, pumpkin pies, butternut squash soup, warm apple cider, cider donuts. The fall food is just so incredibly comforting. I already touched on this recently with my Top 5 Football Foods post - but there's a lot more to love about fall food.

I am so glad the fall is here; I just wish it wasn't such a short season. Maybe one of these years it will last just a little bit longer into November...