I Need Your Help: 24 Before 24 Suggestions ~ Giveaway

My brain has been jumping around during the last few weeks trying to figure out how I can accomplish as much as possible during August on my 23 Before 23 Challenge. I have one month to finish it up and while I’m quite confident in my ability to check off 22 of the challenges (I didn’t start early enough on #8), I just need to have them organized and do it in a profitable way. 

I’ve also spent a minimal amount of time trying to figure out what I want my 24 Before 24 Challenges to be. I really, really like the challenges I had for this year. I felt like they were realistic, helped make my year more profitable and bettered me as a person. Plus, they weren’t incredibly overwhelming and therefore I have been able to chug away at them regularly and not get stuck. 

Since I was thinking about what I want my challenges to be this year, I thought I’d ask y’all to give me your suggestions. Sounds like fun, right? 
And of course I wanted to make it more fun than just “leave your suggestions below” so I decided to host a giveaway along with it. (Yay for giveaways!) For every comment you leave with a suggestion you get to add an entry to the giveaway. 
Y’all can go as wild, fun, serious, crazy, or off-the-wall as you want with your suggestions. Just remember that I only have 12 months to accomplish it! And… Ready… Setty… Go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To give you the heads up on what types of challenges I’ve done in the past, I gathered up the challenges from the last three years and I copied them below. I bolded what I consider to be my favorite/most helpful challenges.

21 Before 21:

1. Walk 100 miles (not all at once)
2. Get Where Dandelions Grow published
3. Host a writing contest on my blog 
4. Work up to 1,000 words of quality writing in a 15 minute time period
5. Put marbles (etc…) in a jar that count out until I’m 26 (it’s an inside thing) {
6. Read 30 non-fiction books
7. Write at least 100 words on my TGS WIP every day 
8. Find an artist for my creation books
9. Go to Hawaii
10. Read 3 books about WW2 
11. Re-write Star Glow 
12. Get two of my books for sale in print
13. Find a solid answer for my JM book
14. Get my drivers license
15. Have five published authors gust post/be interviewed on my blog 
16. Get a first draft written for my goals for the next five years
17. Read 2 books about Lyme Disease
18. Reach 75,000 words in this years’ journal
19. Write down amazing things I’ve done, at least 101 things
20. Track my food for 100 days
21. Write 2 in depth character sketches
22 Before 22:
1. Write and send 22 snail-mail letters
2. Go for 22 days (not in a row) without Internet
3. Go for 22 days (not in a row) without computer
4. Read 22 non-fiction books
5. Read 22 fiction books
6. Write 22 thousand words in my journal 
7. Memorize 22 (Bible) verses 
8. Move to our new house
9. Go to Florida
10. Go to Europe
11. Go for 22 days in a row without sugar
12. Host a writing contest on Noveltea
13. Do a guest post or be interviewed on other blogs or host a guest poster or interview on my blog 22 times
14. Track all the money I spend for 22 days
15. Do the 100/100 challenge with Limes 
16. Write the continuing Limes story on Noveltea – at least 500 words a segment
17. Get my drivers license
18. Do my idea with the jar and marbles/beads, etc…
19. Get WDG totally edited
20. Write the first draft for my AK’s book
21. Get my second Creation Quest book totally ready for publication
22. Write ten book reports/reviews
23 Before 23: 
1. Read 23 Non-fiction books
2. Write 1,000 words for 23 days in a row
3. Write 23,000 words in one week
4. Write 23 book reviews
5. Track all the money I spend for 23 days
6. Walk 23 miles in one week
7. Write a card a day for 23 days
8. Track all the money I spend for 23 weeks
9. Memorize 23 verses
10. Listen to the book of Eph. 23 times
11. Read the Proverb of the day 3 months (not in a row)
12. Write a list of the next day, 23 days in a row (not counting weekends)
13. Go to bed before 10:30 23 times (not in a row) 
14. Get up at (or before) 6:15 23 days in a row
15. No texting for 23 days (not in a row)
16. Crack the whip 23 times in a row
17. Reach 100,000 words on WLHYL
18. Send/give gifts to 13 random people
19. Stay off of sugar 23 days in a row
20. Write a list of 500 things I’m thankful for
21. Fill up a physical journal
22. Make 5 blankets for a pregnancy center (or something like that)
23. Write monthly reviews on my blog within 5 days of the end of the month whenever internet is available

A Thousand Days

Celebration time! 
Yesterday marked the 1,000th day since I started writing a 100 words on my WIP (work in progress) each and every day. People, a 1,000 days is a long time. To give y’all a little glimpse of just how long it actually is, here’s a list of things that I’ve done/have happened in my life in the last 1,000 days: 
* Three of my books were published
* Three nieces and one nephew were born
* I completed 31 items from my dream list 
* My brother and I sold our herd of around 40 milk goats and kids 
* I’ve had book signings, author blog interviews and been on live TV
* Our family built a house and moved (Pictured: old office and new office): 

* One of my siblings got married
* I had three birthdays spanning from my late teens to early twenties
* I found out that I had Lyme disease and spent about two years getting over it (including multiple visits to Lyme disease specialists in Pennsylvania and Colorado)
* I published 617 posts on Noveltea 
In the last 522 days I’ve read 202 books (I didn’t keep track before that)
* My cute little puppy who was only a few weeks old at the time is now almost three:

* I got braces, had them for over two years and then got them taken off
* I went to the Grand Ole Opry, explored castles in Europe, ruins in Aruba and lots of museums in-between
* I wrote a book with 150,000 words 
* I did the A to Z blogging challenge three times
* I made a whole bunch of new and amazing friends
* I hiked up mountains, went caving, kayaking and snorkeling: 

And I traveled a lot. In the last 1,000 days I was gone for 318 nights (give or take a few)… 
I traveled to or through:
California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia 
Aruba, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland 
Africa, Asia, Europe, North America 
Had layovers in:
Ivory Coast, Africa
Nevada, USA
Qatar, Asia
So much has happened in my life in the last 1,000 days and to know that I’ve consistently written every single one of those days is pretty exciting. I’m so thankful for the support of my family and my writing group, Go Teen Writers. I’m also so thankful to be a writer and to know that God can use my imagination to inspire people. 
To celebrate the 1,000th day my family went out for milkshakes yesterday and then today I’m hosting a giveaway over on Go Teen Writers

What are some of your favorite things you’ve done in the last 1,000 days? 

A to Z Challenge Ideas: YOU Pick!

(Attention: Today is the last day to enter this giveaway!) 

I first heard about the A to Z Challenge three years ago soon after I started blogging. I thought it was a fantastic idea and eagerly awaited the next April so I could join in with the challenge. Two years ago I dove in head first and came up gasping with delight. That A to Z Challenge was the first time I ever wrote about Lyme disease on my blog and it was so freeing and hard and a time full of growing for me. Plus, it helped me keep up with Noveltea even though I was off exploring Hawaii.

Last year I was looking forward to joining the challenge again (my theme was mindset), but I ended up having such a crazy month (which I split up between Asia, North America and Europe) that even though I posted for each day of the challenge, I wasn’t able to put as much time and effort into it as I wish I could have. (Bummer!)

This year I’ve been brainstorming on and off for several months about what my theme could be for the Challenge and it hit me yesterday that I could let y’all help me decide! Before we go on though, let me explain to you what the A to Z Challenge is.

Each year thousands of bloggers join together and each blogger picks a theme, then for every day in April (other than Sundays) they blog about their subject, starting out with a word that begins with the letter A and continuing on until they reach Z. (For example for B the first year I picked Battle and for B the second year I picked Believe.)

Most of the time my A to Z Challenge posts will be pretty short (I’ll aim for 200-400 words), and I’ll probably post my regular type posts a couple times a week in addition to the Challenge posts. (Lord willing I’ll be in Aruba for half of the month! I’m so looking forward to getting to share beautiful pictures with you.) That means if you don’t want to read the A to Z Challenge posts, you’ll still be able to keep up with my blog and just ignore those posts. (Really though, the Challenge is SO MUCH FUN!)

So, here are the ideas I’ve thought up:

1. Random story ideas
Y’all, I get more story ideas than I’ll ever be able to use. I thought it would be fun to share some of these crazy and random balloons with you just for the fun of it.

2. Places I want to vist
TRAVELING! If you haven’t noticed, I like to travel. Furthermore, I’ve been blessed to travel a lot. I hope this doesn’t stop any time soon. Therefore I thought it would be pretty interesting to pick 26 different places I’d be delighted to visit and share some of them with you. That way, even if none of us ever make it to those locations, we’ve still had a virtual visit.

3. My dream list 
Ahem. I like lists. I like dreaming. I like imagining what I might be able to do. This month I could add 26 more things to my other dream list and together we could inspire each other do to more amazing, life-changing, fun and adventuresome things.

4. Writing tips
I’m a writer. I’ve been working on the craft for almost half my life now. Of course I don’t know a ton, but every little bit helps, right?

5. Books I enjoy
And of course I’m a reader. This would be like mini reviews/gushing over books I like.

6. If I could spend the day with such-and-such a character
What reader doesn’t dream of meeting some of the characters they’ve gotten to know through a book? If we chose this challenge I’d get to “spend a day” with my choice of character and I’d let you listen in on one of our conversations. That pretty much means you’d have permission to eavesdrop.

7. Other 
Hey! Y’all have great imaginations (right?)! So, why don’t you give me a suggestion?

Now it’s YOUR turn! Please, let me know what your thoughts are!

Release Day: Cool Critters of the Ice Age & Giveaway

Good morning! I said on Friday that I had some exciting news to share with y’all, well, this is it: 

Today is the release day of my new book, Buddy Davis’ Cool Critters of the Ice Age! Y’all, that is really thrilling! (Can you think of a better way to start off your week?) 
  This is such a cool book! With tons of pictures and drawings and fun illustrations, this book is quite different from the other ones I’ve written so it’s a new and exciting venture for me. 

It’s so colorful and full of fun facts, interesting tid-bits and will delight kids of all ages. While writing this book I had so much fun learning about the different creatures that lived during the Ice Age.

From  an armadillo-like creature the size of a car, to Baluchitherium who was twenty-six feet tall, to Titanotylopus a camel who’s fossils were found in Nebraska, I was enthralled by all the interesting creatures this book features.

It would be wonderful if y’all wanted to buy your own copy of Cool Critters of the Ice Age and you can find it here (Master Books), here (Amazon) and here (Answers in Genesis). My adopted parents (who are the co-authors of the book) and I are also hosting a giveaway. I’d be delighted if y’all would join in with celebrating our new book by pass the word along and entering the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

When Life Hands You Lymes #62 & Giveaway Winners

Welcome to Friday! I’m excited to get to share with you the 62nd segment of my fictional story, When Life Hands You Lymes.

First of all though, I’m pleased to announce the winners of the Blog Anniversary Giveaway! Congratulations, Amanda, Lauren and Sarah! I’ll be getting emails to you very soon. Thank you to everyone who entered. This was a fun giveaway to host. 

One last thing before todays segment. I have some pretty exciting news that I get to share with y’all on Monday, so hold on tight and prepare for something that makes this little author very happy! 

And now:

New Chapter
“Errrggg!” I wrestle my suitcase out of the closet and then stand back surveying it for a moment. I couldn’t believe how much energy it took to get the empty container from off the top shelf where I kept my luggage. I rest my arms before standing on my tip-toes to reach the smaller  carry-on. 
I drag the suitcases to my dressing room and lay them open on the counter and then stand back to take in the huge task in front of me. Packing is one of my favorite things to do. I love getting everything in order and deciding what outfits I’m going to wear on various days. I look at my wall of shoes, then slide my gaze along to my accessories. Then I turn in a full circle to look at my bottoms: pants, capers, skirts and my tops: dress-like-tops, blouses, polo shirts, tee-shirts and finally my dresses and formal clothes. 
“Alright, here it goes.” I turn on some up-beat music then scan the email Mom had sent to the family with the different activities we’d be doing during the week. 
The feeling of being alive and ready for an adventure flowed through my veins as I danced around the room, putting outfits together then carefully marking them and lying them in the suitcase. 
“I take it you’re excited?” Katie’s standing there, watching me with an amused expression on her face. 
“What happened to knocking?” I ask with a laugh. I turn down the volume on my phone. The general rule in our family is to knock before going into someone else’s room, but that doesn’t always happen. 
“I knocked. There’s this thing called loud music. This loud music happened to be pouring out of your room. Hence the reason that a certain someone named Madalyn didn’t hear when her sister stood at her door knocking. And knocking.” Katie held up her hands. “Do you see my red knuckles? Yeah.” 
“Sorry.” I turn the music off and give Katie my full attention. “What’s up?” 
“I wondered if you needed any help packing?” 
The warm feeling of being loved wells up inside of me. It’s kinda felt like our relationship has been strained for the last while, but I have to remind myself that deep down Katie is a kind and loyal sister, she just doesn’t always know what to do with my health problems. “Are you done already?” I ask. We aren’t leaving until the next day and I hadn’t expected to be the last person packing. 
“You do realize that it’s getting late, don’t you?” Katie holds up her phone. “It’s after nine.” 
I hold back a snort. Nine in the evening is just when my energy is starting to flow for the day. I forgot about how early my sister goes to bed each evening. “Well, if you’re not busy with anything else I’d love to have some of your fashion advice.” 
“Sure.” Katie takes a seat on the chaise and then leans forward, her eyes expedient. 
  I pull out my navy blue and white striped, knee-length dress and black leggings out of my suitcase and hold them up. “So, I was thinking this would be a good thing to wear one of the days that we’re out sight-seeing. You know it’s kinda got the nautical theme going.” 
Katie nods and I go on. “I was trying to figure out what shoes to wear with it though. Something that goes with the theme. Oh, and I am also going to wear my anchor necklace.” I gesture toward my jewelry case, knowing Katie will know what I’m talking about. It was a necklace Jason sent to me soon after he moved to California. 
Katie walks over to my shoes, thoughtfully looking at the different flats and I got lost in a daydream. 
“I’m so excited that we’re finally going to go to California as a family to visit Jason.” We’d been planning on it the year before but then those plans fell though when Katie and I both had engagements at home and so only our parents and Darrick went. 
“These shoes.” Katie hands me a pair of dusty-blue flats.
I take them with a nod. “Perfect. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure that out on my own.” 
“What are you most excited about with this trip?” Katie comes over and pokes through my suitcase before resuming her seat. 
“That’s a good question.” Katie’s wonderful at coming up with thought-provoking questions. “I guess I’m looking forward to being able to see all the places Jason has told us about. I’m eager to eat at the restaurants he’s mentioned, visit his school, walk in the same parks, see the same views, that kind of thing.” I sound like someone who’s lovesick; in reality I just miss my brother. I carefully fold my PJ’s and then put them in their nitch.  Everything in my suitcase has a place and I can’t stand deviating from the norm. “What about you?” 
“It will be nice to talk to Jason face to face and hear about all the stuff he’s been learning. I know it’s going to boost Emerson Airlines a lot to have his expertise and sharp mind.” Katie gives me a thoughtful look. “I know he’s told us a lot over the phone and through video-chat, but still, that’s not the same.” 
I nod, although deep down I’m starting to get concerned. What if all they talk about is business? I love our family business, I really do, and that’s what makes it so hard. I’ve not been able to do much with it because my energy level is so low and my brain fog is so high. That doesn’t make a winning combo. “What did you do in the office today?” 
“The normal thing, you know?” Katie shrugs. “I spent a lot of time on the phone, solving problems, being a peacemaker, listening to concerns.” Katie is such a good, sympathetic person when it comes to business relations. Sometimes I wish she was more like that with family.

People sometimes ask me if it’s weird to fly in an airplane that has my last name written on it. It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, but I guess it’s cool. Maybe I’m biased, but I think Emerson Airlines is the best ever. 
Often times when we’re flying somewhere we’ll go in one of our public airplanes because Dad likes being able to see for himself how things are being run. There’s been more than one flight attendant who Dad has publicly thanked for their service at one of our business meetings. There have also been a few workers who have been dismissed after treating Dad, or another passenger, rudely. 
“Do you know what I think we should begin serving in all our flights?” I asked, holding up one of the little pretzels from the bag the flight attendant had just handed me. 
“What would that be, Madalyn?” Dad asked from across the aisle. 
“Dill pickles.” 
Darrick was sitting next to me and I was afraid he was going to gag from the face he made. 
“Hey, it’s really not that bad of an idea.” I elbowed him. Hard. 
“Did you consider the fact that pickles have a rather strong oder that might not be pleasant for non-pickle-consuming guests?” Dad asked the question in his easy, mild-mannered way. 
“Ok, I take it back.” I held up my hands in surrender. “But couldn’t we come up with something more exciting than pretzels and peanuts? Isn’t that what every airlines serves?” I scrunched up my nose as I peered at the little green bag in my hands. 
“I had never thought about it that way.” Dad looks thoughtful as he ponders my suggestion. “What oder-free snacks sound good to you?” 
I love the way that Dad takes all of us seriously and tries to involve us in the business. 
I run though a list of snack foods in my head. Everything seems either too expensive, too messy or too unhealthy. 
“We could do almonds or pecans instead of peanuts,” I say at last. All three are good sources of protein and that way we wouldn’t have to worry about people having peanut allergies. 
Dad pulled his phone out and typed in a few words. “Well, that’s a nice idea but there is a difference in cost and with the amounts we buy, that adds up rapidly.” He shows me his phone: Peanuts per pound: Aprox. $2.49 Pecans per pound: Aprox. $8.50 Almonds per pound: Aprox. $9.90. 
I gasp. “No kidding. Scratch that idea.” I rub my face with my hands, wishing I were better at the business side of things. Sometimes I feel like everyone in my family inherited a Harvard-worthy business brain while I got the leftovers. Only, there weren’t any leftovers. 
Banging my tray-table down, I folded my arms on it and then rested my head on my arms. I was tired. The hum of the engines and the soothing feeling of being surrounded by my family who I love helped relax me and before long I was lost in the land of sleep. 
“Do any of you see Jason?” I could tell by the lit in Mom’s voice that she was excited. She stood on her tip-toes, looking around the noisy baggage claim as Darrick pulled the last of our suitcases off the carousel. 
“There he is.” Dad waves his arm in the air and lets out a low whistle that most people don’t seem to hear but instantly grabs my brother’s attention. Jason hurries in our direction. 
“Is it possible that you’ve grown even more?” Mom wraps her arms around her firstborn and gives him a long hug. 
“Unless you’re talking about my midsection, no.” Jason laughs and then turns to give me a hug. “Hey sis.”
I can’t wipe the grin off my face, it’s so good to be with Jason again, he’s so full of fun and laughter. I poke at his stomach which is hard from working out. “Growing in your midsection? Right…” 
We head through the airport toward the exit where Jason parked the car (yes, there are some perks owning an airline), and I soak in the moment. Not only have I always wanted to go to California, I’m beyond happy to be here with my whole family. It’s been a lot harder getting everyone together for a trip since my older siblings hit college age. Thankfully Katie and Darrick both opted to do on-line courses at least to begin with. I don’t know what I would have done if they’d all left home and it was just little ol’ me. 
God, it would be really delightful if I could feel well this trip. I climb in the back seat of the Cadillac Escalade Jason brought, the regulated place for the youngest kid, and settled my purse on my lap. Having energy would be a huge plus. Not having pain would be awesome as well. I try to ignore the throbbing I’ve been feeling in my legs for the last couple of hours. And no random outbursts of non-me-ish emotions would be beyond my dreams. In Jesus’ Name I ask this. The fact that I just arrived safe and sound in San Francisco, yet never once did I thank God for the blessings of the hassle free and safe trip make my face blossom with shame. Wow, I must be the most ungrateful person ever. I’m so sorry, God. Thank You so much for the safe trip today. Thank You that the pain wasn’t unbearable. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to be here.
“You’re quiet back there,” Jason looks in the rearview mirror and catches my eye when I look up to see if he was talking to me. 
“Madalyn’s quiet a lot now,” Katie announces before I can think of anything to say. 
“Our Madds is quiet?” Jason’s glances in the mirror again, his eyebrows raised. “It’s only been a couple of months since I’ve been home. When did this phenomena happen?”
Since I don’t exactly know how to say Ever since talking became too tiring or Since I decided opening my mouth to speak was too much work without sounding lazy or whiny, I decide to stay quiet and let the rest of my family give their reasons. 
“I guess she’s just grown up.” Katie shrugs as if she can’t quite place why the change took place in her little sister. “She’s a lot more concise when she does talk though.” Coming from Katie I know it’s a compliment, yet somehow the ton of her voice is more surprised than complimentary. 
“I think it’s because her brain is so full of music that all of her thoughts spill out when she’s playing and therefore she doesn’t need to use words any more.” Darrick gives me a wink and I know that he’s sticking up for me in his own roundabout way. Not that I need anyone to stick up for me when they’re discussing how many words fall out of my mouth in a day. 
“I’ve formed my on theory on the matter,” Jason stops at a stop sign and then makes a right turn. “I think it’s because you two have decided to jump in and answer everything for her so she doesn’t need to talk any more.” 
Katie’s face is startled when she turns around and looks at me. “You’re right, we did just answer for her, didn’t we?” 
I think Katie’s so used to when we were kids and I was always talking that it hasn’t really hit her how much I’ve changed. This isn’t the first time that she’s answered a question for me, but most of the time I don’t care. 
“So, why is it that you don’t talk as much any more?” Darrick gives me an intent look, totally focused on what I’m about ready to say. 
Warring thoughts flood my brian. I go with the easy option. “I guess I’m just busy thinking.” I cringe as the words come out, hoping that my siblings don’t think I’m implying that they don’t think. 
“I for one am anxious to hear what some of your thoughts are,” Jason turns on his turning signal and makes another left hand turn. 

Blog Anniversary Celebration Giveaway and New Design

Although March 6th might not be a holiday of national importance, it is a day to celebrate in my book. Or should I say blog? Ladies and Gentlemen, tomorrow is the third blog anniversary of Noveltea! I’m excited to be able to celebrate with y’all with a new blog design, a giveaway and lots of fun stats!

Let’s start with the new and improved blog design: A couple of weeks ago I asked y’all to fill out a survey and help me make Noveltea a better place. One of the questions was What would make Noveltea better? and several of y’all thought that a new blog design would do the trick. And, I aim to please so I set to work at redesigning my little nook in the internet world. (More about why I chose this particular design in another post.)

Now for the giveaway. *cue fanfare music* (What birthday celebration is complete without a gift?) There will be three prizes, one for each year Noveltea’s been around. When I was in Africa in January I bought these genuine leather wallets and I’m really excited about getting to share them with you! The wallets are two of the prizes and the third prize is a $5 gift-card to Amazon.

Please Note: Wallets will only be sent to addresses in the USA. Sorry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.jsAnd last but not least of all, let’s look at some stats! Ahem, ok, so I have a rather strong attraction to statistics and pie charts (I just learned how to make my very own pie chart this week!) and lists and graphs and… Yeah. Any excuse to use them on my blog makes me one happy little blogger. All that to say… If you’re not into stats you can just enter the giveaway and be on your merry way.

Also, I’m not putting the stats on my blog because I think they’re fantastic or anything like that (I know better than that!), I just find it very enjoyable when other bloggers share stats so I thought y’all might like it, too.

First I decided to figure out how many posts I’ve written each year:

Then I figured out how many pageviews Noveltea has gotten each year:

Then I decided to compare the posts, comments and pageviews Noveltea has had: 
And for my last pie chart I divided the pageviews up per month from the last 12 months: 

And a few un-pie-charted stats:

Published Comments of all time: 4,061 (some of these are my replies)
Published Posts of all time: 752 
Published Posts since last blog anniversary: 301
Average Pageviews each Month since last blog anniversary: 7,054
Average Pageviews per post since last blog anniversary: 281
Average Pageviews each Day since last blog anniversary: 233
Amazing Followers: 287

Thank you so very much to all of you who have read my blog, commented, followed and been a part of my life for the last three years. It’s been a fantastic journey and far more involving and crazy than I had imagined it would be! It’s been exciting, challenging, fun and a really interesting to get to share my adventures and what God’s been doing in my life with y’all. I look forward to the next three years and hope y’all stick around for the ride!

See how we celebrated in years past: