It’s been another exciting year, and we want to thank you all for reading and, if applicable, posting comments on our blog. Once again, we would like to close out the year with some summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, and family.

Best and Worst Film Experiences:

  • Jim:  This was a down year for me in terms of watching films. I viewed a lot of “tweeners” that wouldn’t fall anywhere near the “best” or “worst” categories—e.g., Interstellar, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Probably the best film I watched all year was the Israeli drama Fill the Void, a powerful story of a young Haredic Jewish woman who is pressured by her family to marry the widower of her older sister, who died in childbirth. On a lighter note, but just as memorable, is the endearing Jon Favreau comedy Chef. As for my worst film experience of the year, the choice is easy: Gone Girl, which Amy and I reviewed here and here.
  • Amy:  While Jim was in California, I pretty much anesthetized myself with any television series I could get my Netflixed hands on. While there was a great deal of loving or listing it, hunting for houses and cousins with kitchen, I did watch some quality shows, most of them dark and mysterious. I think the new paradigm of shows created directly for streaming and released in their entirety has real potential. Here are a few to which I became hopelessly addicted, with the usual disclaimer that since they are mostly British, they tend to be a wee smutty and anti-religious, but well-written and well-acted: Hinterlands, The Killing, Happy Valley, The Fall. My best experience, however, was watching Mockingjay: Part One with my older boys. I know it isn’t saying much to say it is the best in the series so far, but it was. There was popcorn and bonding, so take that and stuff it in your high culture hat.

Jim’s Best and Worst Musical Experiences of the Year:  The highlights for me were Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business (despite the Moz’s increasingly sardonic perspective on life) the Black Keys’ Turn Blue (my review of which is here), and U2’s Songs of Innocence (despite the popular trend of hating this album just because it was simultaneously gifted to millions of people). The low point, as it probably could be most years, was catching “highlights” of the MTV awards. Blecch.

Amy’s Best and Worst Eating Experiences of the Year: Best: Finally got to experience (free range) pork belly and it did not disappoint. Like pork chops wrapped in bacon. Thank you, Barn Brassiere in Muncie, Indiana.  Worst: The hundredth Subway tuna sandwich on flat bread I ate with the kids while traveling back from California. Every woman has her fast food sub-sandwich limit and I reached mine somewhere in Kansas.

Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  It was a thrill to see both the Ole Miss and Mississippi State football teams in the top five, with the latter enjoying the #1 position for several consecutive weeks of the season.  I also enjoyed the Kansas City Royals’ exciting run to the World Series.  And as I write this I’m enjoying the Detroit Lions season culminating in a playoff appearance, though I expect the end of their run will make my “most disappointing sports moments” for 2015.

Amy’ Favorite Sports Moments of the Year:  Watching all my kids play soccer this fall. I had to step up my spectator skills in order to do play-by-play for Jim while he was in California. I saw Bailey score his first goal in a high school game, Sam play keeper (a position he and his high threshold of stimulation were born for), Maggie deceive many an opponent with her flighty demeanor, and Andrew take charge of his defense. So fun to watch them all, though the rides home were admittedly a little stinky (but only literally).

Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year:  Although I’m not a Kansas City Royals fan, I got caught up enough in their improbable playoff run to be really deflated by their falling just short in game 7 of the World Series.  If Salvador Perez swings just half an inch higher on that final pitch, the Royals win the championship on a walk-off two-run homer rather than losing on a feeble pop-out. It’s a game of inches… And speaking of disappointments related to teams I don’t normally root for, it was also painful to watch Peyton Manning’s Broncos so thoroughly dismantled by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Having to tell Jim, who was suffering from amnesia at the time, that Peyton Manning didn’t play for the Colts anymore. He looked so devastatingly baffled. At least he forgot about it five minutes after I told him.

Satisfying Reads of the Year:

  • Jim:  I was delighted to have the time to finally read Melville’s Moby Dick, my reflections on which you can see here.  I also enjoyed Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead—an achievement that is as subtle as it is profound.  The best work in philosophy I read this year was Jason Baehr’s The Inquiring Mind, a rich and insightful work on virtue epistemology.  Also, I greatly enjoyed—and was happy to do a back-cover endorsement for—the book Rethinking Hell, a compendium of important articles and essays defending the doctrine of hell known as conditional immortalism (the view that the damned are eventually annihilated, as opposed to suffering eternally).
  • Amy:  I read so many good books this year. From contemporary fiction to 19th century memoirs, this was a great reading year for me. Here are just a few of my recommendations: The Warden by Anthony Trollope, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (though I hated Brooks’ March), Where’d you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, a couple by P. G. Wodehouse, 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice and The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Best 2014 Memories of Our Kids:

Amy:  Our trip out west was the big one. Sitting on the beach with Jim at Big Sur watching the kids playing in the water and looking for creatures was a near perfect moment. Looking at their happy and surprised faces when Jim told them we were getting a dog was priceless. Not being found first every time during Christmas bedtime hide and seek was pretty sweet too.

Jim:  Traveling through Arizona and California with my family in October, experiencing together such sites as the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Pacific coastal highway, and Alcatraz. Our kids have always been good travelers, but they blew us away with their endurance on this extended sojourn.

Best Maggie Quotes of the Year:

In the past we’ve reserved this spot for memorable quotes from all of our kids, but this was such a great year for quotes from our daughter Maggie (who is ten years old), we decided to simply list some of her more memorable ones:

  • “When I grow up, I’m gonna make an exact copy of the earth, then cut it in half with a big knife to see if the center of the earth is really so hot.”
  • “Sometimes being hungry can be satisfying. Unsatisfaction can be satisfying.”
  • “I never talk to myself when I’m alone in my room. I just talk to the Beatles and my stuffed animals.”

Most Satisfying Shared Experiences of the Year: 

  • Amy:  There were quite a few this year: Kayaking through the beautiful mangrove forest and onto the open ocean while in the Bahamas. Seeing so many beautiful places on our trip out west. The night Jim surprised me for my 40th birthday by driving me around to collect lovely, encouraging notes from my friends. However, number one has to be picking him up from the airport in December, knowing he was home to stay.
  • Jim:  Dittos on all of that.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Amy:  Somehow managing to maintain the new perspective Jim’s being gone gave me. Appreciate him more, worry about the little things less. Enjoy and encourage my kids more, criticize and hide from them less. Accomplish the fitness goals I set but didn’t quite reach for 2014. Watch more quality films with Jim. Put more time and energy into plans for my professional future and of course, read lots and lots of books.
  • Jim:  To read half as much as my wife did this year, which would mean reading twenty-six books next year. Good luck to me on that.

Happy 2015 everyone!

3 Responses to “The Best and Worst of 2014”

  1. Brenda


    Favorite Maggie quote as she is putting LOTS of creamer in her coffee at church, “My mom says I’m going to get diabetes. I think it’ll be worth it.”
    She has the humor of both her mom and dad. She’s doomed. 😉

    Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to the Spiegel family!

  2. Susie Wales


    Hello! I am a 2007 graduate of Taylor (I was Susie Hinkle then, an English major) and have been following your blog off and on since then. I have not commented before and I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your thoughtful commentary on culture and faith. Thank you for writing!


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