2021 in review: How the year played out and the best books I read
I’ve been trying to start this blog post for the past two days, but I keep getting caught up in one home organization project or another. I organized the clothing in my dresser and closet. Then, I sorted through all my jewelry and placed it into old pill boxes and various decorative storage containers to keep it straight, And this evening, I moved my sewing kit into one plastic lunch container so I could get rid of the old plastic drawer solution since the drawers never stayed closed.
Of course, that doesn’t include the regular things I did such as loading and unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, cooking dinner (homemade pizza on Saturday night) and helping my husband with his apple pie by peeling and slicing the apples while he made crust. I don’t regret the time I spent engaging in any of these activities or the time I spent with my family.
2020, part II
All of 2021 started to feel like 2020 part II, with the exception of a few things opening back up. The kids were back in school, and then Drew caught COVID-19 in February 2021. We all did our quarantines during the mild snowstorm, and luckily Drew recovered and no one else got sick.
Going into 2021, I was grateful to have a job I could do from home to minimize exposure to the virus. I still went to stores when necessary to get our necessities, but I stayed distant and masked, despite being vaccinated. Turmoil at the university left me feeling uneasy right after we bought a newer car to replace my old 2005 model. I had a bad feeling.
On May 10, 2021, I found out my position at the university was being eliminated after June 30. After almost 17 years of dedicated service to the university, it was quite the punch in the gut that resulted in hurt feelings and lost friendships.
After applying for 38 jobs, interviewing for 3, and accepting a great offer, I started working at ArcBest as a senior copywriter on August 2, 2021. (And I get to work remotely!) In the end, I was so blessed to only have to file unemployment for 4 weeks with 3 of those paid because of the waiting period. Thanks to my accumulated vacation time, and Jonathan’s (since he quit the university and started a new job a week before I did), we were okay financially.
COVID hit outside our immediate family when my cousin and her family caught the virus. While her husband and 6-year-old son recovered, my 45-year-old cousin, Tara, did not. Then Jonathan’s brother’s family caught the virus, and Jonathan’s brother had to be on a ventilator for several weeks. He’s still facing a long recovery.
The U.S. is still in flux with everything about COVID being turned into a political argument. I’m really damn sick of the whole thing, as I’m sure others are, but when did caring about others become unusual? Shouldn’t that be the default setting or something?
I want to write so badly, but my brain has reserved all writing for work-related activities for now. I’m struggling to learn search engine optimization (SEO) which is a skill that is always a learning process—there is no mastering it because it’s always changing with every Google algorithm update. I strive to do the best I can, but at the same time, I feel like I’m having to learn to write in a new language that I don’t quite speak yet.
The language I do speak, which is my voice for these posts and the voices of my characters for my stories has been on hold for most of the year. I can’t just blame the pandemic. Even though COVID-19 really hit in 2020, I still finished One Shot that year and published it in 2021. Once 2021 hit, I was ready to go with Lydia’s story, but then the pandemic continued.
With everything going on, my brain just needed a break from heavily writing a novel. I still worked on it occasionally, and I wrote a few blog posts, but I didn’t hold myself to any deadlines. For the first time, I did an interview about writing that was featured in a podcast by by favorite local bookstore, Dog Ear Books, in Russellville, Arkansas.
Until around 2019, I’d never really struggled with my weight except for trying to maintain it when I was first sick with UC. Since then, I was able to watch my diet for UC triggers, give birth to two children and lose the baby weight (thought it took about a year each time). The numbers began to creep up on the scale, and I found myself about 20 pounds overweight despite exercising and trying to eat less.
First I tried the Keto diet with a metabolic center near my home. I tried the program for 4 months at the end of 2019 before I gave it up. I followed their diet, drastically cutting carbs and increasing protein, and felt like crap the whole time. While I lost some inches, I only lost about 4 pounds. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I had to engage in a lot of self-care and healthcare in 2021 anyway. I turned 40, so that meant getting a mammogram, and getting another colonoscopy since it had been 20 years since my last one when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It also meant throwing my hands up in the air and talking to my new doctor about my weight since my BMI had just creeped over into the obese category.
When I started my new diet under the advice of my doctor, I was closer to 45 pounds overweight according to the good ol’ BMI chart. In other words, I was 20 pounds heavier than when I was full-term pregnant with Drew. I couldn’t believe it.
I get the concept to lose weight. Eat less, exercise more. Burn more calories than you take in. But damn, it’s hard. With women, hormones play a role as well, and stress. Gee, does a global pandemic count as stress?
I’m doing intermittent fasting at the advice of my doctor. I eat less than 1500 calories per day between noon and 8 p.m. I’m trying to continue exercising regularly, adding in some weight training, and maximizing protein. I wake up starving, and go to bed starving sometimes, but I’ve managed to lose about 15 pounds in 4 months. It’s a slow process, and sometimes if feels like two steps forward, one step back, but I am trying. And now I’m back into the “Overweight” category on the BMI chart. That’s progress, and it’s 28 more pounds to lose to reach my goal weight. I really hope to reach that by this time next year, but if I don’t, I am still a worthy person.
Year-end book reviews
I always like to end my year-in-review posts with my top ten books of the year. I read 105 books during 2021.
Hear are my top 10 picks for the year:
- Lightning Strike, William Kent Krueger
- The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate
- When Ghosts Come Home, Wiley Cash
- Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
- What Beauty There Is, Cory Anderson
- Don’t Know Tough, Eli Cranor (I read an ARC, as the book releases in March 2022)
- You and Me at the End of the World, Brianna Bourne
- The Light Through the Leaves, Glendy Vanderah
- The Music of Bees, Eileen Garvin
- Wherever He Goes, Vania Rheault
The above books received 5-star ratings from me on Goodreads and Amazon. You can check out all my book reviews for the year and previous years on my Goodreads Profile, which is also an author profile. I’m currently running a giveaway contest for my novel, One Shot, that ends on January 23, 2022.
Goodreads Book Giveaway
by Brandi Easterling Collins
Giveaway ends January 23, 2022.
See the giveaway details
I hope that 2022 brings health and happiness to my friends, family, coworkers, and readers, I try to see the bright side of things no matter how dark, as hard as that can be sometimes. Here’s to you, 2022.
May we be kind to each other and grow (mentally) as humans every day.
Thank you for reading,
-Brandi Easterling Collins
Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – www.freepik.com
Sports vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com