The Roiling Cauldron of 2021 // a year in reverse

Well hello, people! It’s me! The crotchety reclusive INTJ in the mismatched socks!

Eta Carinae: The Star That Defies Death | by Quazi T. Munir | Medium

Welcome to a new day and another year of chaos! May we all fondly remember how depressed we were this time last year. (Not much has changed.) The last twelve months have been a whopper of an adventure, from getting employed for glaring at people to being recognized by a stranger on the streets. If you wondered where I’ve been all this time, here’s your answer.

(The void. I’ve been in the void.)

Welcome to a 2021 wrap-up, Baran style.

Something Happy

In February, Lord of the Rings was being shown in a random Michigan theater over the course of a week. My family drove two hours for each film so we could see the entire trilogy because that’s the kind of people we are. It was a transcendent experience. A cultural reset. Poetry.

My biggest takeaway was they fixed the scenes where Legolas’ eyes are the wrong color.

Dad, meanwhile, lived out his childhood dream of sitting in the front row. (A dream which lasted approximately 43 seconds before the rest of us made him move.)

Something Sad

We were high on adrenaline and more than halfway through Fellowship of the Ring when the screen and lights abruptly blacked out, plunging the theater into complete darkness. Moments later, the backup lights came on and we sat blinking at each other, unsure if we should be concerned for our safety or enraged Boromir had been interrupted in the sacred act of dying.

Those are the faces of people who were just cheated out of Boromir’s death scene.

After several minutes passed and nothing happened, my dad went to find out what was going on. In the meantime, the man sitting in front of us called his wife on speaker-phone and had an intense conversation about what he was having for lunch. (A tomato sandwich. With frozen breadsticks thawed in the microwave.) Since I understand the grave importance of lunch, I wasn’t going to laugh, but the old ladies behind me started cackling and that was the end of my good intentions. For six and a half minutes we were besties. It was great.

Dad finally returned with the tragic news that the power was out and wouldn’t come back on for several hours. We were effectively kicked out. (And never did manage to see Boromir die.)

Nevertheless, the next week I got to watch Denethor eat his tomatoes in IMAX, so that almost made up for the rest of it.

(Yes, I videoed it. What else would a self-respecting disruptive theater-goer do?)

Something Significant

On August 6th, Rosalie Praise Thiessen disturbed everyone’s sleeping schedule and effectively kicked me into aunt-hood.

Rise of the Evil Gremlin Child

Anna’s a mom. Anna. I’m still not sure how to handle this.

I’ve yet to meet the new little goober in person, but considering her default facial expression is contempt, I think we’ll get along well.

Something Accomplished

A dream I’ve harbored for more than ten years finally came true — the ability to tell complete strangers to be quiet and actually get paid for it. Friends, I became a librarian. My list of duties include:

  • Glaring over my glasses at random people.
  • Yelling at little kids.
  • Feeding patrons’ important documents into the copy-machine and watching them get jammed and shredded.
  • Writing passive-aggressive emails to other libraries.
  • Cackling with glee over their passive-aggressive responses.
  • Explaining to old ladies that computers don’t run on magic.
  • Black-mailing the director into buying my favorite books.

Suffice it to say, I love my job.

Something Familial

Something Writerly

Near the end of 2020 I realized I had six years of writing under my belt and still nothing to show for it except a few fraying braincells. This led to a Tortured Artist moment where I threw down my pen in a fit of passionate melancholy and declared that if I weren’t able to scrape together a tangible accomplishment by the end of the next year, I would never write again.

Yes, very dramatic.

But I truly meant it. Aeterna, the never-ending WIP of my childhood heart, needed retirement. And I needed to prove something to myself. So I made a pact: if I weren’t able to get serious with my pursuit and finish a complete novel by the end of 2021, I would set aside my pen and give up my lackadaisical dream of becoming a published author forever.

Granted, when I made this pact with myself, I intended to work on a novel idea I’d had in mind for a while — something with flesh already on it. I didn’t anticipate a random harebrained concept about caribou to dive-bomb my life at the last possible minute. I also didn’t expect this idea to seize me so strongly that I threw everything else to the wind and immediately started working on it. The very last thing I expected was to actually finish it.

And yet, on December 20th, 2021, at the stunningly unholy hour of 2:03 A.M., after breaking a personal record of writing 7,000 words in one day, I typed “The End” on a complete draft of the very first novel I’ve ever finished.

I got: 12/14 That deserves a happy dance! | Disney gif, Disney characters,  Disney facts

I’ll tell you more about it in the coming days. But for now, here are some aesthetics to pique your interest.

Something Artistic

My favorite pieces from 2021.

Something Bookish

I read 60 books this year and set a new personal record. Feeling pleased with this accomplishment, I proudly presented it to a friend of mine.

“Nice!” she said, like a supportive little bean of comfort and encouragement. “I read 257!”

*knocks over bookshelf*

Some particularly noteworthy books that highlighted my year include:

  • Middlemarch — Wherein Eowyn’s 17th century British twin actually marries Grima, and a probable fairy masquerades as a society-forsaken gypsy painter.
  • Unpublished Work by Hannah Robinson — If I actually possessed money I would pay you to follow Hannah because I’ve never laughed so hard or ached so deeply as I do when reading her stories.
  • Adorning the Dark — My artistic soul feels understood.
  • Eve in Exile — The most balanced approach to Biblical femininity vs. feminism I’ve yet to encounter.
  • Ivanho — Essentially Robin Hood fanfiction, albeit a few hundred years old.

Something Epic

Kate and Daeus finally got married, much to the delight of everyone who ever shipped them on the Kingdom Pen forum. I hung out behind the scenes for a couple days with some long lost friends writer friends.

Since there was a fairly large group of Story Embers people attending, we went to a park afterward and had a mini-reunion.

When walking on a bridge suspended over a deep chasm, the natural thing to do is stand on the railings and recreate a scene reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Something Celebrated

Anna’s first wedding anniversary arrived in November, marking an entire year since I saw her last. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this long without her random inexplicable observations and devastating personal critiques, but here we are. She and Jesse live just a short skip across the border but due to weird Canadian covid regulations I’m not allowed into the country. Dangit, Canada.

Nonetheless, as her anniversary was on a Sunday, one of her bride’s maids and I wore our dresses to church and held a reenactment.

I think we captured the spirit of the thing fairly accurately.

{Pride, Prejudice, and Pandemic // Anna’s unconventional romance}

{The Art of Being a Pathetic Wedding Planner // Anna’s unconventional romance, pt. 2}

{The Mishap of Marriage // Anna’s unconventional romance, pt. 3}

Something Quotable

My brother-in-law has taken on the solemn duty of making sure I don’t lack for Anna-ish quotes. He texts them to me with very little context.

Apart from quotes, Jesse’s and my relationship can be categorized into three extremes:


Rare sentimentalism—

Or a pair of immature preteens egging each other on.

There is no in-between.

Something Local

After three years of living in rural Michigan, the waiter at our small-town diner asked me if I wanted “the usual.” I blinked several times before saying I did, and he returned with exactly what I wanted.

…what kind of Mitford fanfiction have I stumbled into. I have waited my entire life for a local diner to know me well enough to know my order.

I’m a regular, guys. I’ve leveled up.

Something Precise

If you’ve followed my blog for even a short time, you’ve probably seen Emma Flournoy lurking in the comment section and spreading lovable kindness wherever she goes. This fabulous person recently started a proofreading business, and while I’m not exactly going to shove it down your throats and force you to check out her website, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Having used her services myself, I can attest to the fact that she’s painfully thorough and knows more about hyphens and the proper capitalization of seasons than I could ever hope to learn.

Here’s a link. Click on it for the pretty graphics, if nothing else.

{Precision Proofreads}

Something Unexpected

In August I got a random text from a good friend I met several years ago on the Kingdom Pen forum.

“Are you home?” she asked, to which I responded in the affirmative. As it happened, she was in the area for a few days with a ministry she was part of. The rest goes without saying.


Something Coincidental

In October, some friends and I went to a random festival several hours from home. Near the end of the day I happened to notice a girl standing nearby and glancing in my direction. A few minutes passed but when I looked again, she was still there, still glancing. I wondered if I had something on my face.

I was on the verge of finding a remote hole to hide in when I realized she was coming over.

“Hi!” she said. “Are you Sarah Baran?”

Keep in mind I had never laid eyes on this girl in my life.

Head spinning, I warily acknowledged my identity. She nodded sagely. “I thought so. You painted a character commission for me! I follow your blog!”

GIF aladdin choc sorprendido - animated GIF on GIFER - by Mokelv


We had a nice chat and then went our merry, separate ways, albeit more or less shell-shocked on my part. The odds of being in the same place at the same time in the same realm of existence as one of the few people who follow my blog, especially taking into account how big the world is and how many people are in it compared to those measly followers…

Yet somehow my face was recognized in the wild and I met a stranger who knew me.


I feel famous.

Well, that just about wraps it up! Considering my resolutions for 2021 were nonexistent, it’s been a strangely productive year. I became an aunt. I wrote a book. I got my dream job. Etc. Not that everything has been fun and games (getting woken up in the middle of the night by an enraged bat trapped in the hallway certainly puts life in perspective), but all in all, 2021 was one wild roller-coaster of a year.

This is the part where I should say something sappy about my expectations for 2022 and how excited I am to explore the coming year, but honestly, I’m still just trying to recover from missing Boromir’s death scene. In the meantime, I came up with some New Year’s resolutions.

  • Don’t die.

Simple, but important.

A Mysterious Deep Space Object Is Sending Signals To Earth Every 16-Days |  Shoe: Untied

See you soon, my friends!


40 thoughts on “The Roiling Cauldron of 2021 // a year in reverse

  1. AHHHHH congratulations on finishing a book, Sarah! (If you ever need a Beta Reader I would be honored) And becoming an aunt! And getting your dream job! Sounds like you had an amazing year!


  2. WHOOOO!!!! Congratulations on becoming an aunt!!! And finishing your novel!!! And bEcOmInG a LiBrArIaN!!! #CoolestJobEverrr
    Your texts with That Guy cracked me up, I suffered reading that you missed Boromir’s death scene *narrows eyes at evil blackout*, and as always your art is: 😍😍😍😍 (seriously considering doing one of those commission thing-a-ma-jigs. So that be proof right there.) 😉 So glad you had such an awesome year and I loved reading all about it!!!!


    1. A huge thanks to all congratulatory remarks! Sometimes life is cool!!

      Jesse has a flare for sending blog-worthy texts. He knows what he’s doing a little too well. XD

      As a thoroughly and completely non-biased human with absolutely nothing clouding her judgment, I say (quite objectively) that you should go for the commission thing. I’m totally unbiased, mind you. 😉


    I must thank you, Sarah, for giving me the only fleeting moment of internet fame I shall ever be awarded. It was lovely to meet you in person, and yeah, my mind’s still blown from that experience as well! Though I must say, you make me sound way cooler and more self-possessed than I think I actually was… 😀

    Congratulations on all the wonderful things you’ve so kindly deigned to (finally) tell us about, and here’s to (hopefully) hearing from you again in the not-too-distant future! I’ve missed your crazy ramblings 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I DID BECAUSE IT WAS STUPENDOUS. I couldn’t stop vibrating the whole rest of the day. 😅 Honestly, you WERE incredibly cool and self-possessed. Especially considering walking up to someone who potentially isn’t who you think they are is a terrifying prospect. I felt like an awkward little nugget.

      Crazy ramblings will reign supreme once more. Hopefully. 😉


  4. SARAH IS BACK!!! Hopefully not to disappear again 😛

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and AAAH you got your dream job and you’re an aunt and EEEEE CONGRATULATIONS on finishing that first draft!! I totally relate to having to set aside one’s childhood beloved WIP – did that myself a few months ago. But it’s so worth it to have a fresh project to pour out newfound knowledge and raw skill onto, isn’t it? 😉 I can’t wait to hear more about Project Caribou!

    Sounds like you had a wonderful year, and here’s to yet another one! *raises glass* *preferably not Denethor’s*


    1. I think my aesthetic is randomly disappearing for extended periods of time and then popping up again like nothing happened…

      Old WIPs are a tragic thing. I’m so emotionally attached to it. But. It needs more help than I have the mental capacity to give. 😅 ONE DAY I WILL FINISH IT. One day. The Aeterna squad will live again. But yeah, in the meantime, it’s so refreshing to start something new without all the inhibitions of one’s amateur self.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Very surreal. My sister has a tiny creature that looks like the rewound version of herself and I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. 😂

      Happy New Year to you too! 🎉


  5. GUYS
    Seriously, my serotonin went nyoooom up to the sky when I saw an email telling me that you’d made a new blog post. I readied myself to cackle in delight multiple times, clicked on the link, and was not disappointed.
    Congrats on finishing your first novel!!! I still remember well the thrill, the terror, the pride at typing those two words… the end. Also congrats on being an aunt, she looks like you two will get along famously when she’s old enough to match her words to her facial expressions. 😁
    The wedding was the best thing ever and YES so satisfying to all the Kaeus shippers who spent years waiting for them to catch up to the rest of us in regards to their relationship 😂 It was so good to see you and I can’t wait until I can do it again. 😊
    I read … probably 215 books this past year? But 60 is good too 😁
    Now my kettle is whistling so I’ll have to pop back to my hobbit hole for tea. *ignore the fact that I neither like tea or have a hobbit hole*
    Glad you’re not dead – see ya around!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, tis I, Sarah Baran, nyoomer of serotonin. 😂

      Writers need to marry each other more often just so the rest of us have an excuse to hang out. ALSO, I’m so mad we didn’t take a picture together when we had the chance. I just now realized that. We were there! And then we didn’t! For shame!

      *flips bookshelf again* HOW. How do you people do it. I barely had the mental stability to get through SIXTY bound tree corpses and all the emotional angst they entail, let alone multiple hundreds. Good glory.


      1. I am entirely in favor of more writer weddings! *raises glass as a toast to possible future unions that can be used as an excuse to see peoples*
        We so should have taken more photos… I lost all my photos from that event in a tragic Google photos calamity, so I wouldn’t have it anymore, but we still should have taken them.
        I’m a verified speed reader, so I think I genuinely have the capacity to inhale books faster than humans. I mean other humans. Other people of my own type because I am yes most definitely a human, no doubt here. *shifty eyes* I’m also not in school and got probably hundreds of hours less sleep than I should.


    2. (If it makes you feel any better, I only read about 27 books this year. -_- It doesn’t make ME feel better, but yikes. Even 60 sounds like a stretch now.)


  6. SARAHHHH I am so happy you posted! This was such fun to read. I hope you get to meet your niece soon. Also congrats (again) to Kate and Daeus — I wasn’t around Kingdom Pen early enough to ship them but I am still very happy for them 😀

    Someday I will pounce upon *cough* I mean politely introduce myself to you. We live in the same state so it’s somewhat likely, right? More proof of internet fame.

    Looking forward to learning more about your novel!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so awesome to see you again, Sarah!! 😄 Congratulations on finishing your manuscript; the aesthetics definitely piqued my interest. 😝 (But seriously I do want to hear more) And OH MY GOSH IT’S HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON!! 😱

    As always, loved all the stories! I want to hear more stories about you being a librarian 😆


    1. Thanky thanky, and HOORAH for the aesthetics serving their intended purpose! 😆 There will definitely be a post entirely devoted to wild library stories, so stay tuned.


  8. Congratulations on becoming an aunt!! 😍
    Finally Kate and Daeus. That was overdue 🤣🥰
    And I am seriously impressed your sister managed a 2 day canoe trip with that much biking and waking whilst pregnant. 😲 My pregnant self is laying in bed trying to decide if I have energy to walk to the bathroom 🤫😆
    And pregnancy brain has robbed me of every other praise I had in mind.
    This post made me so happy, I’ve missed your life giving posts 🥰


  9. Wow Sarah!! You’ve been very busy this year (or should I say last year?). I’m so glad you were able to make it to Kate and Daeus’s wedding…It just wouldn’t have been the same without you.😊 And those texts you shared…🤣 …Wow. Jesse sounds like a great brother in law. Another hilarious and great post Sarah!!😄


  10. I love reading your blog; you’re so funny! Also, your niece in that first picture – 🤣

    Your relationship with your bro-in-law is also hilarious and those texts made me LOL.

    And meeting someone who follows your blog?? In real life?? LEVEL UP! Just like at the diner, haha.


  11. HAHAHAHA “Something Precise.” XD

    That was a jolt to see. A fun jolt. Thanks, pal.

    (Kindly ignore the fact that this is your fIRST POST IN TEN MONTHS yet I couldn’t even catch it the day it came out. >_< Grrrr. It makes me sad. I STARTED READING IT YESERDAY THOUGH.)

    Your and Jesse's relationship makes me SO happy. 😂


  12. You’re ALIVE!!! That’s awesome 😀

    Congrats on being a librarian — the vibes are amazing! And on becoming an aunt! The little minions are very fun.

    I very much appreciated your message with That Guy. Pretty much me in… most text threads tbh.


    okay, I’m fine now.


  13. It is so so so good to read another Sarah post!!! I was concerned about you several times this year, but alas, I too was busy and… didn’t do anything about my concern. 😬 I apologize!
    Congratulations on becoming officially an aunt!! How exciting!! There are so many epic things in this post. Your conversations with your brother-in-law. Driving hours to watch LOTR in theater. Kate and Daeus getting married (how cool! I had no idea Kaeus was a thing… but I can totally see it now, and I’m so happy for them 🙂 ). The fact that you are now a librarian.

    Sounds like 2021 really was a pretty good year for you, and I’m so glad it was! 2021 is certainly a year I will never forget. It was crazy.

    P.S. You know how we wrote letters for a while? Now I need to get your number. Our text conversations would be great. 🙂


  14. I’ve been extremely starved for your content and I could barely believe it when I saw you posted again. tysm for this thoroughly entertaining and satisfying recap of your 2021! many congratulations to anna and jesse for the newest addition to their family. may God bless them and be w them through the strange journey of parenthood! and finally, I’m just incredibly excited and happy to see the sarcastic elf is back ;-;


  15. I’ve been extremely starved for your content and I could barely believe it when I saw you posted again. tysm for this thoroughly entertaining and satisfying recap of your 2021! many congratulations to anna and jesse for the newest addition to their family. may God bless them and be w them through the strange journey of parenthood! and finally, I’m just incredibly excited and happy to see the sarcastic elf is back ;-;


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