Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Goodness gracious, where did August go?

Well y'all, we've got some old, current, and new business to address. Let's get to the old business first.

Remember my February challenge? If not, I'll refresh you: I wrote to a company/person/celebrity every day and tried to fill their heart with warmth and love by showing my appreciation for them or their product. Funny enough, I received another response about 2 weeks ago...never mind that I had originally written to this person 6 months ago! Had enough of the suspense already? The response I received was from none other than... Nicholas Sparks! Here is the letter:
"Dear Andrea
Thank you for taking the time to write. It's always wonderful to hear from people who enjoy my work. Being an author, after all, isn't necessarily like other forms of entertainment. While I'm in on the "performance," I seldom experience the "response". So again, thank you for dropping me a line.

It's been a busy year for me. Right now, I'm writing a new novel entitled The Best of Me, which should be out this October. Assuming I finish it, of course. I thought I had finished, but there's a bit of editing to do. Actually, I have to pretty much rewrite the ending from scratch (the last 60-70 pages), but that's the way it goes sometimes. I was a bit bummed by that, but I trust my editor. All she ever wants is the best novel possible. The good news is that Warner Brothers has already bought the film rights.

Later this year, I'll also be producing for the first time. Safe Haven (Relativity Media) starts filming in October, and I'm kind of excited about the idea. One of the joys in my life is trying, and learning, new things, so it should be a lot of fun.

Also, The Lucky One (Warner Brothers) with Zac Efron will be out next year. I saw an early cut, and it's fantastic. I hope you're looking forward to it coming out in theaters as much as I am.

You said some lovely things in your letter and had some questions, but unfortunately, I simply don't have the time to answer them right now. Most of the answers, though, can be found on my web-site ( I'm also on Twitter (sparksnicholas) and on Facebook (, and I answer questions there, too.

I hope you're well, and thanks again.
Peace, Nicholas Sparks"

So, I will foolishly admit that right until the part where he said that I "had some questions" in my letter that I really believed he specifically wrote this to me. However, I didn't ask him any questions in my letter, so at that point I knew it was a form letter. Darn it. He really had me going for a little while! It was still a fun surprise to receive this letter so late, though!

Now, for this month's challenge: I was going to try to ride 250 miles on my bike. Did I make it? Drumroll please.... YES! I DID IT! I SMASHED THIS CHALLENGE OUT OF THE PARK! I not only rode 250 miles, but I added some extra on top of that, for a grand total of 327 miles! WOW! I honestly can't believe I rode that much! I am very thankful to Noli and my Uncle Steve for their help in getting several of the 20+ mile rides out of the way. I've learned a few things about my biking preferences over this month: I would much rather ride down city or country streets than on a bike path or a "rails to trails" path. It's just so much more interesting to have houses and people and farm fields to look at than to be riding endlessly through trees or on flat, boring trails. Although that is the one thing I do love about the "rails to trails" paths is that they are flat, since they used to be railroad tracks and therefore had to be fairly level for the trains. Next, I've learned bike shorts really don't help much. If you're going to crank out 25 miles, your butt is going to be sore no matter how much padding you have in that general vicinity. Third, always take wind direction and speed into account before starting the ride. I never ever did this, and suffered severely because of it. Fourth, ride with your mouth closed. I honestly can't do this while biking, partly because my nose runs and there'd be snot dripping down my face, and also because I can't breathe deep enough to support the excessive effort I'm requiring from my body. Finally, I learned it is incredibly better to attempt a challenge such as this when you can ride with someone else. The few times I had someone riding with me I was able to really nail the miles with seemingly little effort, but when I was out there by myself there were several days I just wanted to rip my legs from my body and leave them on the trail because they sure didn't want to cooperate. I think having someone riding with you really helps distract from the pain you are suffering. Some of you may remember that I promised myself I would buy something nice for every 25 miles above and beyond my goal I pedaled. The first thing I'm getting is a new computer. It just doesn't seem reasonable that it takes 30 minutes for my computer to boot up in the morning. I've ordered a new one already and it should be coming in the mail in a week or two! I do want to say this has been one of my most enjoyable goals, despite how much I am complaining about it. I absolutely love riding my bike and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after a great ride. And in case you'd like to know some other really impressive statistics, here they are: according to my cyclometer on my bike, I burned a total of 11,193 calories this month, 999 of which were fat calories. I love that little computer! The picture up top is the method I created of recording my miles. I colored in one pink box for every mile...and then had to add more boxes when I went beyond 250! Now we must move on to next month's goal...anyone got any guesses?

The goal is to eat vegetarian all month. With three small exceptions, that is. I am attending a wedding for my dear friends Natalie and Jason on 9/10/11, so I think I'm going to have to eat chicken there. Halfway through the month they are having an employee appreciation meal at my work, so I'll pig out on some meat there. At the end of the month I'm attending Octoberfest in Appleton, so all bets are off there. This is certainly going to be a challenge for me, because I happen to really love meat. I mean, I really really love it. But maybe it will be a good thing because I'll finally spend a little time cooking instead of always eating things out of the freezer. We shall see. And so again, I would like to thank you, loyal reader, for your support, input, and for taking the time out of your day to read my thoughts. I love when you make a special effort to tell me you read my blog, like Donna and Kara did this month. Stay tuned, and if anyone wants to join me on dining on lettuce and beans this month, just let me know!

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's August already!

Well, the wonderful month of July is over, and with it goes my challenge of completing several projects that have been left undone for a long time. I'm sure you're wondering how I did and just how fantastic my house looks now. In self defense...

Ok, I already told you I wasn't home much in July because I was on vacation for 9 days. Add into that the days I worked or was at the cottage, it didn't give me many days. Add on top of that the fact that I was trying to get my upstairs apartment rented out, which required several projects as well that were not on the list, and you have (you guessed it) not many things crossed off my list. Here is what my list looked like at the beginning of July:

1. Finish touch-ups in my upstairs apartment so it's ready to rent (I'm 90% completed with this goal already)
2. Attach the screen to the south side of my porch that was removed 2 years ago
3. Repaint my front porch, hopefully with a paint that lasts longer than the Dutch Boy Porch Paint I used last time, only 2 summers ago
4. Touch up paint in my bedroom, living room and dining room
5. Hang my Gone with the Wind puzzle/movie posters/pictures on the walls in my spare bedroom
6. Vacuum my basement, including the million spider webs
7. Fix the pulley ropes that snapped in 2 of my windows, leaving them unopenable
8. Screw mesh over the holes the starlings made in my roof so they can't get in to build a nest in my attic again next spring
9. Clean out my gutter that caused the basement to flood 3 times in a week

Holy. Cow. I hadn't looked at this list in a long time, and it sickens me to realize I did ONLY ONE THING ON THIS LIST! This is the worst challenge I've done so far. I am a complete and utter failure. Boo hoo. I completely repainted 2 rooms in the upstairs apartment (including ceilings) and repainted the cabinet under the kitchen sink up there. All my hard work did lead to getting a tenant, so now I have reestablished the flow of income and I'm living high on the hog again (not quite, but it's nice to dream). I TRIED to reattach the grid to the bottom of my porch last night but didn't have the appropriate tools and I got frustrated, so I just quit. That is the summary of the projects I completed this month, and this concludes my presentation *head hung low*

That's enough dwelling on the failures of last month. Let's move on to this month. As some of you saw on Facebook, my friend Noli correctly predicted this month's challenge would be to, in her words, "ride a bajillion miles" on my bike. I had initially wanted to log 1,000 miles in a month. I got zero support on this goal. Everyone told me I was crazy, stupid and setting myself up for failure. Fine, I retuned my goal to 500 miles. That breaks down to about 16 miles a day, which is reasonable. So I set out on my bike this morning for a leisurely 16 mile ride. The ride sucked. I did well for about 8 miles and then I hit the wall, and by the end of the ride I had revised my goal to 250 miles for the month. I think it was the humidity, the GIANT hill I climbed on my bike and my under-inflated bike tires that conspired against me. Also, I think my blood sugar was low cause I just about passed out a couple times despite drinking plenty of water. I'm going to have to carry a snack with me from now on. So the goal is now 250 miles, and I've decided for every 25 additional miles above and beyond 250 that I do I am going to buy myself something really nice that I've wanted for a long time but have never spent the money on, like a comfortable lawn chair, a Wii, a new computer, a road bike, a DVR, or something along those lines. You notice most of those are fairly expensive. That's how confident I am that I won't exceed my goal! I think once I hit 250 I'll be DONE! I've created a little chart for myself to keep track of my miles, and I'll keep y'all up to date. This also means I am looking for biking partners so let me know if you want to go for a ride!