Looking Back and Forward

Mpepper/ December 30, 2021/ Flashbacks

What did I accomplish in 2021? Well, I released a couple books. Went on a couple family vacations (remember those?). And tried to make peace with my health.

In spring of 2021, our schools reopened with a reduced schedule. Kids who wanted to continue learning from home could do so, but all three of our kids wanted to go back. Since I was part of the committee that planned the reopening guidelines, I felt fairly comfortable with the protocols in place. So the kids went back to school, which meant I was back to driving them around. Though, with my husband working from home, he was at least able to help out a bit.

Once vaccinations became available, things continued to open up quite a bit. Two of our three kids were old enough to be vaccinated, but we still had one that would need to wait a few months for his twelfth birthday. Even so, we made the decision to take a family trip to Vegas in June. We were able to meet up with my parents while we were there, seeing them for the first time since August 2019. Again, we never felt at risk, though not long after our travels, cases began to spike again.

Still, it was lovely to get away, and also to be able to meet up with friends again. We would meet at one another’s houses or dine outdoors at restaurants. Life wasn’t entirely normal—and I’m not convinced it ever will be, or really, I think “normal” has changed—but it was getting better.

There was a brief moment when I thought I might actually get to make my trip to Japan, but…

Also in June, I released Lost Pieces and Things with No Place. It’s an anthology of three stories and a collection of my plays.

Over the spring and summer, we tried to do a few day trips, like to local amusement parks. We went up to Jack London’s Wolf House, too. We’re fortunate to live in an area with lots to do. Meanwhile, the kids were able to do a few summer camps as well, and all their activities started up again: fencing, Taekwondo, horseback riding, vocal lessons… When they’re busy, I’m busy.

But I was also busy getting ready to publish my next book: The Ghosts of Marshley Park. I’d had a lot of interest from agents, but nothing panned out, and this was the year I decided to give up on trying to find anyone to rep me. The time sink, the constant almost-but-not-quite, the resulting depression over never being good enough—for my own mental health, I had to finally embrace being indie. And GoMP, which released in October, ended up being my most successful book launch to date. (If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll consider picking it up!)

I also gave Kindle Vella a try as it was launching. If you’re unfamiliar, this is Amazon’s platform for publishing serial stories (that can then be collected into full novels when they’re done). It didn’t work for me, so I will probably unpublish everything I currently have posted there.

In late August, the kids were going back to school. For real. Our youngest turned twelve the week before school started, so for his birthday he got his first vaccine shot.

Meanwhile, my health was getting both better and worse. Changes to my diet helped in a lot of ways, but my anxiety and irritation had gone way up. We were able to tie it to my problems with noise, and I was diagnosed with misophonia and phonophobia. I’ve been working with a therapist on these issues, and part of the therapy includes having sound machines all over the house, which I actually quite like. Still, I’m dreading the fireworks that are coming (even though they are illegal where we live)… While I understand this is my problem that I must learn to deal with, I wish people had more compassion and were less selfish in their behaviors. These past couple years have highlighted that on a grand scale, I feel.

We were able to attend a number of theatre performances this year, too, as things began to reopen. We took the kids to Hamilton again, I took our daughter to Jesus Christ Superstar, and my husband and I went to see the revival of My Fair Lady.

Our family was able to take one last vacation over the Thanksgiving break, during which we returned to Disneyland. It’s been a semi-tradition of ours to go there for Thanksgiving (and our oldest’s birthday always falls during that week as well). Once again, it seems we went just before a fresh wave of COVID cases. Though we were supposed to see A Christmas Carol, we decided to stay home instead, only to hear that the remainder of the run was being cancelled anyway. And while packed into a full cinema to see Spider-Man, for the first time since being vaccinated (and boosted), I actually felt uncomfortable and not entirely safe. (I didn’t feel at all that way while in The King’s Man because that auditorium was far less crowded.)

Still, as more news comes out, I’m feeling better and hopeful again. I do think life has changed, and that we need to accept that to some degree. But even a little progress is, well, progress.

As for 2022? My only real goal is to finish my current manuscript. I’ll still be driving the kids around a lot, too. And we have plans to meet my parents at Universal Studios for spring break. Whether I’ll finally get to go to Japan, though, remains uncertain. But I’ll keep practicing Japanese anyway! Hope springs infernal, as they say. Sometimes it’s all you have.

So here is to a hopeful new year. May your path rise and the sun shine upon you. Just remember to also wear sunblock. Because an ounce of prevention and all that.


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