Life of a Writer: May 10th

Day 4 of 7

9:30 AM: I rolled out of bed at 8:30 but didn’t have my notebook next to me, so this is the first I’ve had a chance to write in it. I showered, weighed myself (delighted to find I had only gained one pound over the weekend, despite ordering Indian food, which is my current weakness), slipped on my “Monday Plans: Drink all the Coffee” shirt, and plodded downstairs, prepared to do just that. I had visions of getting some coffee, going back upstairs, and curling up in my pink chair in my writing room alternating between staring out the window and reading my Bible.

And then Daniel came up from his office in the basement and reminded me that the HVAC guys were coming out today. So instead I spent the next half hour running around cleaning for them. We’ve been (very slowly) working on deep cleaning the house, which generally means the room currently being deep cleaned is torn apart so we can scrub the corners and walls, while any rooms not being deep cleaned are ignored altogether. So I figured I should put things together at least enough that they were not tripping, and to incur slightly less judgment. Finally, I grabbed my coffee, which was slightly cool after sitting there waiting for me, and am now settled upstairs, not in quite as pleasant a frame of mind, but still happy to be here.

10:30 AM: After alternately looking out the window, doing my Bible reading, looking on my phone for gifts for upcoming birthdays, and writing in my creative journal, I just moved down to the living room to do my devotions so that I don’t miss it if the HVAC guys decide to knock instead of ringing the doorbell (we can’t hear knocks on that door to save our lives).

11:06 AM: Devotions are done, Marco Polos answered, and the HVAC guys still haven’t arrived. I moved to the dining room table, which is still near the front door, to bring up my computer and start working. Today’s goal is to use the information I gathered from the Oregon Trail game on Friday, compare it to data on Google maps, and review emigrant diaries to get a good estimated timeline for each important stop along the California/Oregon Trail so I can [finally] establish an actual timeline for my book, since currently I don’t really define how long they are on the trail.

1:30 PM: I have been working steadily, reading through emigrant diaries and taking notes on the timeline, as well as using the diaries to mark specific characteristics of stops along my California Trail map. The HVAC guys just called to say they are running behind today (No, really? You were supposed to be here between 10 and 12…I’m shocked) and asked if they could reschedule for tomorrow. I’m slightly annoyed, but not too much because in-depth, productive research always puts me in a pretty good mood. So Daniel and I are going to do our Abs workout, eat lunch (cabbage soup!), and then go to our favorite coffee shop in downtown to finish the work day.

2:30 PM: We have settled in at Shoes, ordered lattes, and are back to work! One great thing the pandemic has done…allowed us to work from coffee shops.

4:15 PM: Back home from Shoes, and still working away.

6:00 PM: Finally shutting down for the day, having established a very rough timeline for my family, gathered lots of great information, and feeling very good about myself. Tomorrow I will use the information I gathered to make a more specific timeline.

Note on Today/Tomorrow (May 11, 2021):

I’ve decided to take a break today from the 7 days in the life of a writer because, one, I slept in until 10:15 AM after another night struggling with insomnia and, two, I really need to do some house things and errands that are weighing on my mind. So it is going to most likely be a day of folding laundry, running around to stores, and occasionally fitting in some work. Tomorrow I will pick up again, though I think for the last three days, I might actually do Abby’s original suggestion, which, if I understood it correctly, was Instagram. While, as I mentioned in response, I tend to prefer just writing rather than pictures and videos, it would be a nice change of pace and probably less time consuming. So, Wednesday – Friday, watch my stories on instagram under @forestidylls to see my Life of a Writer for days 5, 6, and 7!


Life of a Writer: May 7th

8:30 AM: I’ve technically been awake since 8:00 AM but Daniel was still sleeping, so I took it as permission to lay there and play on my phone, valid or not. 😛 Getting up, weighing myself, and taking a shower.

8:50 AM: I lost a couple pounds, so the fast did its job – I know it is a false weight in one sense, but it still seems to push weight loss forward. Showered, dressed, and downstairs, it’s time to scrounge for something to feed my growling stomach.

9:30 AM: I made poached eggs over sourdough bread with sliced jalapenos and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Now I’m back up in my writing room, planning to answer some Marco Polos and do my devotional and prayer time.

11:30 AM: I took longer than usual at my prayers and devotions, but it was needed. Now I’m ready to get to work!

12:15 PM: Okay, so I got downstairs just as Daniel came up from the basement, which of course meant we chatted for a bit, did our afternoon workout, and then our normal walk around the yard with our coffee. Finally going to get some work done.

1:40 PM: Okay, so after doing 2-3 days worth of social media posts, I may have gotten distracted playing The Oregon Trail game online. But in my defense, it’s giving me great information on timing for the trail! Heating up some cabbage soup for lunch.

2:45 PM: Well, okay. We ate lunch and then I finished my Oregon Trail game…everyone made it alive except me! Daniel left for the city for work stuff, so I put on a movie and am determined this time to get through the posts!

5:30 PM: I have been working steadily, and intend to keep working for awhile, so I poured myself some wine.

11:15 PM: I’ve worked with few breaks all evening – stopping long enough to catch up with Daniel when he got home at 7:15 and make dinner (salsa verde chicken on a corn tortilla sprinkled with jalapenos, feta cheese, and cilantro) – and finally finished the posts about an hour ago!! Now I’m working on some additional reservations, and looking forward to putting away my computer once they are done.

(In case you are wondering, yes, this has actually happened several times in the last few weeks – working until all hours once I get going to finish what I’m working on)

Life of a Writer: May 6th

Day 2 of 7!

8:35 AM: I groaned as I rolled over and saw that it is technically past time to get up, but remembering I will have to write it down if I sleep in later propels me from bed despite a night involving insomnia and tossing and turning. I pull on jeans and a sweater, grateful for once that my winter clothes have not been put away because it’s a freaking 46 degrees out! And yes, Daniel went and turned on the heat for me.

9:00 AM: I made my way downstairs, managing to spill part of the coffee Daniel had just brought me, only to remember we aren’t making breakfast today because it’s our weekly fast day (another weight loss strategy). I hold a brief text conversation about learning past tense in French with my sister-in-law, gather my computer, et al., and head back up to my writing room to do devotions.

10:30 AM: I finished my daily Bible reading, an entry in my creative journal, devotions, prayer time, and meditation. I then wrote, for the first time in three weeks, my ten motivational phrases/goals that came about as a result of the book Girl, Stop Apologizing, which technically I am supposed to write every day as a reminder to myself. I always forget. 😛 Going to (finally) go through the emails I have been avoiding for the last week and catching up on online activities, but limiting myself to half an hour so I don’t get overwhelmed.

11:10 AM: Went through my emails, Facebook notifications, and WordPress notifications. Time for some real work! First up, getting a glass of juice. Then a set of pushups, followed by going through my California Trail trip spreadsheet to check on places that have been closed for COVID to see if they have opened yet. After that, it is back to my social media spreadsheet, now that I have finished blog posts, to draft captions for anticipatory Instagram posts and tweets.

12:40 PM: Only through the first two days of prewritten social media posts done and I was just editing ones that I had already drafted! Hashtags suck the life out of you. Perhaps I’m overthinking this…Anyway. I’m going to stretch, refresh my juice, and see if Daniel wants to work out yet.

Less than five minutes later: Daniel is in a meeting, so I guess it’s back to the social media spreadsheet for me!

1:20 PM: Daniel is out of his meeting and came to rescue me from the monotony of drafting posts. So we are going to do our Abs workout, pour some coffee, and take our afternoon jaunt around the yard.

2:10 PM: My head feels nice and clear again after the workout and walk. Plus I got a book in the mail! The Emotion Thesaurus. I have no idea how I have survived without it for as long as I have. It is going to be my constant companion from now on when I write. I am proud of myself for also managing to fit in a set of Triceps Extensions. And now it is back to social media posts.

3:10 PM: My brain is once again mush, so I am taking a stretch break to do some pushups and then going to write 100 words in my current novel, and then going to do a French lesson Duolingo.

3:50 PM: I also finished editing a scene in Picture of the Past, refilling my juice, and am now back at the grindstone. It is going better now, though! I feel like I have slowly but surely been getting the hang of it and the captions and tweets are coming faster.

5:00 PM: As it hits 5:00, I have just finished Day 11 of social media posts and am signing off. I think I hear Daniel moving around downstairs which means he might be done with work as well.

one – two minutes later: Daniel is nowhere to be seen, so apparently I was listening to ghosts. So instead I did a set of Triceps extensions and am going to curl up on the couch to read about Victorian terms and expressions while I wait for him.

5:23 PM: Done for the day and headed to meet Daniel out back to saw some branches. He recently cut down some branches from the tree in our backyard, and we’ve been slowly working on breaking them down the last few days, which has involved a lot of hand sawing. Good workout, but ready to be done with it!

And the rest of my day involved:

  • Finishing breaking down/sawing all the sticks! Yay!
  • Having a smoothie for dinner as a compromise on fasting
  • Practicing waltzing
  • Doing a yoga session
  • and thinking about more cleaning, but sitting on the couch instead.

Life of a Writer: May 5th

Per a request and subsequent suggestion of the other two authors on this blog, I am conducting an experiment. Namely, if I track my writing days…aka, write down everything I do…will it make me more productive because I am, essentially, making sure I look good? The answer is almost certainly going to be yes and therefore, in an attempt to make sure I am as productive as possible in the next couple of weeks, I am going to do seven days in my life as a writer. Yup. Seven. Business days, of course. So below, find Day One.

8:45 AM: I finally dragged myself out of bed after once again staying up too late the night before, making my way to a shower. It constantly amazes me how much just some warm water improves ones’ outlook on life.

9:17 AM: Having thrown on jeans and a green shirt that was technically purchased for my winter wardrobe, telling myself for the third week in a row that it is time to bring out and sort through my summer clothing, I go downstairs, delighted to hear Mr. Darcy (our most frequent cardinal visitor) chippering away outside at the bird feeder, despite the constant drizzle of rain. My mind will not stop reminding me that we are out of cabbage soup and need it for lunch, so I make myself some coffee and get to work chopping vegetables even as I berate myself for not doing it the night before, which would have allowed me to sit down and get right to work on this, my first of seven days of journaling my day.

10:20 AM: Two big pots of cabbage soup are simmering on the stove, which ought to get us through the next two weeks (part of our weight-loss strategy). I ignore the mess in the kitchen, do my first set of pushups for the day, and then settle in at my computer in the breakfast nook so I can keep an eye on the soup, while sipping the smoothie Daniel made us for breakfast.

Ignoring my email, I dive straight into my social media posts for June’s trip. I am currently (and have been for weeks) writing rough drafts of each day’s blog post for June so they will be easy to fill in with details while we are traveling, thereby hopefully taking less time of our trip. I am about halfway through, and think maybe I can finish them today.

11:40 AM: I took a stretch break to check on the soup, which is finished and admirably spicy, if I do say so myself. So, I turn off the burners, push the pots to the back of the stove to cool, and do a set of tricep extensions before getting distracted on Facebook for just a few minutes…in my defense, I was tagged in the writing group I am in, and that usually means the author who runs it needs me to answer a question about schedules.

11:50 AM: Back to blog posts! Now that I am at the California portion of the trip, I have high hopes the rest will go quickly since I no longer have to research the historical aspects of each wagon train stop to write the posts.

1:10 PM: It’s done!! I can hardly believe it. I have reached a milestone. After weeks and hours upon hours of work, I have the rough draft of 26 blog posts finished for our June trip. Now I am going to go see if Daniel is at a good stopping point for lunch.

One to three minutes later: He is finishing up a project, so I run upstairs to change into workout clothes and clean up for a few minutes while I wait for him. We have discovered that if we work out before lunch, we actually do the work outs pretty consistently, so that will have to come before we eat.

2:00 PM: We finished our workout -today’s being our least favorite as a 30-minute strenuous strength workout with cardio woven between the strength sets, and includes another set of pushups, and after catching my breath, I went ahead and reheated a couple bowls of the newly made soup for lunch. Or rather, I start to heat them up and then my sister called, so I picked that up and Daniel finished reheating them.

2:50 PM: I spent the last 45 minutes eating while working with my sister to look at and offer feedback on the children’s book she is self-publishing, and then paid a bill that has been staring at me all day. And now, I am headed up to my writing room to do my Bible reading for the day, trying to remind myself that the most important part of my life as a writer is to consistently spend time with the One who instructed me to write in the first place.

3:30 PM: I finished doing my daily Bible reading, did my creative journal entry, and was halfway through my devotions for the day when Daniel appeared to ask if I wanted coffee and to do our [almost] daily walk around the yard to admire our flowers and plants routine. Which, of course, I did. I also took advantage of the break to empty the dishwasher and do another set of tricep extensions.

4:00 PM: Back to my devotions!

4:40 PM: Completed devotions, prayer, and meditation and am now going to do my writing exercise before I forget.

4:45 PM: I plan to spend the remainder of my writing day working on editing my book.

5:15 PM: After making very minimal progress on editing that scene, and racking my brain for social events for the wealthy in the 1850s other than balls (apparently my mind really gets stuck on balls), I did a quick French lesson on Duolingo, and put rice on for dinner.

And that was my day of writing! And yes, in case you were wondering, having to write down precisely what I was doing at each moment DID keep me actually working. I am not sure if my evening activities were supposed to be a part of this daily journal, but I am assuming not since they aren’t really related to my life as a writer. Well. Most of the time. In summary, in case you were counting on finishing the day out, the rest of my evening consisted of:

  • Making and eating dinner
  • Doing our canoe exercise workout and the rest of my pushups and tricep extensions
  • Doing some yard work
  • Deep cleaning the bathrooms and hallway
  • Talking to my mother
  • and collapsing on the couch at 10:00 PM to play on my phone and type this up

I apologize for the insanely boring nature of this, but it really did help keep me on track. Maybe I will reconsider doing this on instagram…pictures have to be more exciting than this, right?

A Hoot of a Hike

Okay, ridiculous title, I know, but I feel like my titles to my posts are always so BORING. So, I went with it.

This post is going to be almost as ridiculously short as my title, but I thought I’d share anyway–I SAW OWLS IN REAL LIFE! I know this shouldn’t seem like a big deal, but for some reason it is! I had never really thought about it before, but I’ve never seen a real owl before.

Daniel and I were on a hike, again (we only made it two miles this time. sigh), and heard this strange bird call. Then we heard another one that sounded, you guessed it, like a “whooooo.” And then like a trilling response call, and we saw a large bird fly across the river we were hiking next to and land in a tree a little ways away. We both stared at each other, and were like, “Were those…owls?” It was at that moment I realized it would be super cool if they were. Dusk was falling so we couldn’t see super clearly, but we were pretty hopeful.

We made our way closer, and heard both calls again, slowed down, and shortly after, a large bird flew way up over our heads, landed in a tree, and, sure enough, it was two owls sitting there, chatting away as though he’d come by for coffee. I didn’t even know owls could make that many different sounds! Of course, as soon as I took out the camera, they sat there as silently as the fake owls we keep in our yard.

Based on youtube videos, I think it was an Eastern Screech Owl and/or the great horned owl – between the two of them, they made both sounds that youtube indicates.

Anyway. That’s all. I just wanted to share that I finally saw owls.

A Snowy Hike…and a Brush with Death (in my dramatic mind)

Even though I am henpecking this post due to injured fingers, I thought it was worth this writing out while still fresh in my mind.

Daniel and I have been going on hikes lately, for anyone who doesn’t know, while increasing weight in our backpacks to increase stamina in preparation for Daniel’s trip to the boundary waters in the fall. This month’s goal was to fit in two 4-mile hikes with 20/30 pounds. Well, it has been snowing almost non-stop, which is highly unusual for Virginia, and Daniel was concerned about going for a hike in the snow and ice. I apparently have more Minnesotan in me than I realized, because I insisted that was just an excuse, and we would be perfectly fine hiking in the snow. We did, however, agree to try a different trail than the mountain we usually hike – a trail closer to us and hopefully less – mountainous.

Everything started out perfectly fine. With some effort, we managed to find the trail we thought we wanted, and set out on our quest for fitness. It was certainly snowy and icy, but a lot flatter than the hike we normally take, so I think we were both pretty pleased. The trails at Ball’s Bluff apparently overlap quite a bit so there was lots of twisting and turning and consulting the trail map as we tried to figure out which way to go. The flat trail became more and more steep and we were both grateful for the myriads of footsteps that had gone before us that allowed us both to see in which direction to go, despite the lack of markers, and gave the trail more traction. It was simply gorgeous, though, and for someone who hates winter, I was beginning to think winter hikes might be my new favorite thing.

At some point, the hills got really steep and we both looked over the edge of the path and shuddered to think what would happen should anyone ever fall. We were a good hour into the hike, bemoaning the fact that our legs hurt and we were barely half through our four miles, which seemed absurd considering how far we felt like we had come, when it happened.

The sun had been going steadily down and though it was still quite light out, it was getting cooler and the snow was getting harder and more icy. One moment, we were following footsteps and the next the footsteps were gone and Daniel had slipped, fallen on his behind, and begun sliding. For the briefest of moments I was ready to laugh and tease him for falling…until I realized he wasn’t stopping. The snow was too crusted over with ice – there was nothing to hold onto, no traction to slow him. As if in slow motion, I watched him hurtle faster and faster to the steep, icy hill below us as I screamed at him to grab something. He flailed for some brush, grasped it, and it tore through his hands even as it flipped him to his stomach; he reached up and, just as he passed under, grabbed a branch and jolted to a stop. My heart skittered as I watched his water bottle fly past him, going past his dangling feet to the hill beyond, so steep I couldn’t even see the water bottle as it descended to running brook at the bottom, and I had images running through my mind of Daniel’s body lying down there if he hadn’t grabbed that branch. Then my stomach twisted as I realized he wasn’t out of danger yet.

One hand clung to the branch while his feet and the other hand, covered in blood, felt desperately for a hold so he could hoist himself up. But there was nothing. The snow was too hard – there was no place to dig in.

“Hang on!” I called. “What can I do?”

“I don’t know.” he grunted as he began pounding the snow with his boots, trying to create a foothold where there was none. I unclasped and took off my giant backpack with the vague thought that if I could get close enough to him, I could use a tree for leverage and toss him one of the straps and haul him up.

“Is there a path under me?” he asked, still clinging with all his might.

I looked closely and sure enough, the path wound narrowly under him.

“Yes,” I said. “You might be able to lower yourself, but be careful or you’ll slip right over it.”

He began kicking his feet again to get a foothold and, with more hope for my backpack plan when there was a path to help me, I sat down so I could inch my way to the path. All it took was a couple of scoots and as surely as if I were on a toboggan, I started sliding. It was both surreal and terrifying at the same time, as though it couldn’t possibly be happening to me even as I began assessing my options.

Surely the flat surface of the path would stop me, my brain reasoned even as I whooshed past Daniel and flew straight over it. I caught a brief glimpse of the icy hill, the scattered trees, and the creek filled with rocks waiting for me below as I grasped some brush. It flipped me over as it tore out of the ground. I spun as I grabbed for first one nonexistent hold, then another, alternately glimpsing the approaching bottom, with all the rocks and brush in the way, the rocks waiting to bash my head in and then watching my scrambling hands trying to save me as I spun yet again. Daniel said something about me hitting a rock and flying a few feet but I don’t remember. Suddenly I was almost at the bottom and there was a tree headed straight for me. I reached out my hands to grab, felt my face smash into it, slid around it and landed face down, half my body in the creek, the other half in the snowbank.

Three thoughts ran through my head simultaneously.

  1. I should be dead.
  2. I should definitely be unconscious.
  3. I would have to go back to the dentist because I doubtless had some broken teeth.

Not going to lie, in that moment, I was most annoyed at the thought of another dentist appointment.

I heard Daniel’s desperate cry from above asking if I was okay and knew I should respond but couldn’t bring myself to move. I laid there, still stunned, my face still in the snow, afraid to move. At his second (or was it third?) call, I forced myself to my knees so he would know I was alive, and fell back down as a wave of dizziness hit me. He yelled again and again I forced myself up and called back with no amount of certainty that I was okay, I felt around my nose and brought my glove back, fully expecting blood. Nothing, but considering how wet I was, I wasn’t sure I would see it anyway. I looked up and was relieved to see Daniel had safely made it to his feet at the top of the hill. I called up, asking if he was okay and he responded that he was. I looked around me, located and grabbed Daniel’s errant water bottle, tried a couple steps, got dizzy, and leaned against the tree that had decided I needed another dentist appointment before gathering my courage and feeling my face again. No moisture, or even pain around my nose. I poked at my teeth and was stunned to realize they seemed as sturdy as ever. I decided at that moment that God had an angel sliding down that hill with me. There was no earthly reason or way for me to be this okay. Accordingly, I shouted back up at Daniel again that I was all right in response to his repeated inquiries, more sure I was telling the truth this time.

Like another miracle, just like that, my head cleared and I could think again. I started to try and find a path back up, and Daniel shouted to me that if I followed the creek, I would hit the red trail and he could meet me there. He just had to figure out how to get my backpack, still above both of us at the spot I had started sliding. I waited for a sign of success before I started walking, and became aware of a throbbing in my finger. I pulled off my glove and grimaced as I saw the nail half torn off and, as if it had just been waiting for an audience, blood began filling up under it. I frowned at it even as I acknowledged how blessed I was, should that be all that was wrong with me, and then felt the finger in my other hand begin hurting. Pretty sure I knew what was coming, I took off the other glove and, sure enough, that nail was also hanging half off. I will say now that it had torn only about a quarter of the way down but it certainly felt like more. Of course, once off, I couldn’t get the soaking wet gloves back on without severe pain, so off they stayed. I then became aware of a developing fat lip and a pain in my side which later examination would prove to be some sort of ice rash- my shirt must have come up while I was sliding and my side got skinned as I slid.

Rather than stand there miserably, I decided to trust that Daniel would get the backpack safely, and begin trekking towards our meeting spot. I realized quickly that if I tried to walk along the snow next to the bank, I would just slide straight in, so I sloshed through the creek itself, figuring I was already wet enough that it wouldn’t matter, and my author’s mind, now that we were both okay, began assessing the best way to fit this scene into a book. I had gotten several feet upstream when I heard another skittering sound behind me. I swung around, and saw my water bottle making its way down the hill to the spot where I had just lain. Daniel was standing at the top, looking down, and rather needlessly called out that he had dropped my water bottle. I probably should have just left it, but I liked that water bottle, and I figured it would take Daniel awhile to get to the meeting spot anyway, so I sloshed back straight through the water, and grabbed it, and then began my trek back again. That was apparently the extent of my hiking boots’ waterproofness because they promptly began filling with water. I reached the meeting spot long before Daniel because he still had to descend the icy hill with two very heavy backpacks, and no path to speak of since it had all iced over. For the next half hour, he chipped holes into the path with the heel of his boot to safely walk, and, on the actual descent, used one of the weights from our bags to pound in handholds in the ice so that he could scoot down safely.

I paced back and forth as I watched him nervously, becoming aware of throbbing in my nose, trying to ignore the sloshing in my boots, and how cold and painful my hands were.

After what seemed a lifetime, he finally made it safely to the bottom with both the packs in tow, and I promptly flew into his arms and started sobbing. He comforted me, telling me how glad he was I was alive, though we didn’t linger too long, because it was cold, and would be getting dark soon, and we still had to figure out our way to the end of the trail in wet clothes.

He pulled out the medical kit that we were wise enough to bring along, and I turned away so I could grimace privately as I finished taking off the partially torn nails, and he then helped me bandage them up. He wiped off the blood on his hand, and I was relieved to see it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had looked. Just some very painful skin lacerations from the brush that had cut through it.

After completing treating our extremely minor wounds considering how dangerous our accidents had been, I pulled on the spare gloves I happened to have in my pocket, and we took off again. It took a considerable effort to keep going because it was becoming increasingly colder and even more icy, if that was possible, but God had His hand around us. We made it to the car in another half hour or so. By then, I couldn’t feel my toes, so Daniel helped me remove my boots and my sopping wet socks, since it turns out it is hard to remove shoes and socks when both your pointer fingers are out of commission, and they warmed up nicely under the car heater.

Finally, we got home, crawled into warm, dry clothes, took ibuprofen, drank some hot chocolate, thanked God for protecting us, agreed on no more winter hikes on steep hills, and sat in front of the fire, watching TV and sipping whiskey the rest of the night.

And that, dear friends, is probably the closest thing to both an adventure and a brush with death I have ever had, and I am still amazed that I appear to have escaped unscathed, other than a quickly healing fat lip, two painful fingers, an incredible amount of bruises, and one very sore nose.