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, food, and family.
Jim: This year I saw numerous films and few of them were disappointments. My expectations were low going into several of these, which contributed to my delight at their quality. One of these was Solo: A Star Wars Story, which wonderfully matched the Star Wars campy humor aesthetic at its best. Another was Incredibles 2, which blew me away in terms of how naturally it followed and even improved upon the seemingly unmatchable first film. What took them so long?! And my expectations were especially low with regard to A Star is Born, but under Bradley Cooper’s superb direction, combined with some strong acting and singing performances by Cooper and Lady Gaga, what seemed from the start to be a really bad idea (why remake such a bad film?) became a stunning triumph—an authentically portrayed tragic tale at a time in Hollywood history when tragedy seems to be a dead genre. Bravo! Two other highlights for the year for me were Phantom Thread (Daniel Day-Lewis is truly a master of his craft) and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (the Coen brothers—directors of the film—are masters of theirs).
Amy: Jim stole a few of my choices for great film experiences, but here are a few others he didn’t mention. I spent a lot more time watching the small screen than the big screen this year. However, two highlights among blockbusters were Avengers: Infinity War and Mission: Impossible-Fallout. Neither was the best movie ever, but once you have committed to a series, you have to see it through, right? The Searchers and My Life as a Zucchini were two small screen gems we enjoyed as a family. I discovered Sneaky Pete which is a brilliantly produced con series and Patrick Melrose. The kids and I devoured The Great British Baking Show and all I can say is it was scrummy! We also made sport with several Hallmark movies this Christmas (one point if you can predict upcoming dialogue, two points for predicting plot developments) which are a bit like your Aunt Betty’s cheese ball: unoriginal and bland but for some reason you can’t stop yourself from consuming it.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: One of the highlights of the year was taking my daughter, Maggie, to see Taylor Swift in concert at Lucas Oil stadium in September. Maggie cried through much of it, while I simply enjoyed the show. Seeing Bailey, Sam, and Andrew develop as musicians (guitar, drums, and piano, respectively) has been wonderful. As for new music that I’ve especially enjoyed, by far my biggest discovery of the year was the Avett Brothers. I have been vaguely aware of them for years but I never really dug into their stuff. Then I discovered their song “No Hard Feelings” at a time in my life when I really needed it. This prompted a deep dive into their catalogue and I’ve been astounded by the musical beauty and lyrical wisdom of their work ever since.
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: This summer, a friend and I catered two weddings, with our husbands and kids playing supporting roles. So much work, so much time, so much fun. Kind of like marriage, actually. Being trusted to play a significant role in one of the biggest days of a couple’s life is a true honor . . . not to mention the joy of discovering homemade pickled beets and chicken shawarma. Yum yum.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: The Chicago Cubs had a strong regular season, but I’ll leave it at that (see disappointing sports moments below), and the New Orleans Saints have been dominant in the regular season as well, and I’m hopeful that their season this year won’t end in a crushing last second defeat like last year (see below as well). Sam’s Eastbrook high school soccer team won sectionals again, which was fun. And his first year on a travel team was great for him as well.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Ironically, my favorite sports moment involved watching my team lose. We had a challenging spring semester and making a run for the border (to Canada) with Jim for our anniversary was a much-needed break. Attending my first NHL game (Detroit vs. Montreal) was icing on the cake. Go Red Wings!
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: The Chicago Cubs early dismissal from the playoffs via a loss in the wild card game against the Colorado Rockies was disappointing. But it wasn’t terribly surprising, as all season long they seemed to lack the timely hitting that great teams consistently come up with. And the New Orleans Saints’ sudden ousting from the playoffs in January due to the “Minneapolis Miracle” TD pass reception by Stefon Diggs was one of the most difficult moments in my life as a sports fan. Oh well, there’s always next year, and I’m hoping this year will be it for my Saints.
Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: I really thought (and hoped) the Cubs would make a deep run in the playoffs, but I enjoyed watching the Red Sox win it all. On a more personal note, Andrew’s travel basketball team lost in double overtime despite the other team going down two players and he ended up with a concussion, a first for the both us.
Good and Bad Reads of the Year:
Jim: One of my favorite reads this year was Christian Faith and Social Justice: Five Views, edited by Vic McCracken. The book displays just how widely varied are the perspectives on social justice, even within the Christian community. And it doesn’t even include a chapter on the natural law perspective, which is probably the book’s main weakness. Here is my full review of the volume. Another superb scholarly text I read this year was Linda Zagzebski’s Epistemic Authority, which explores the role of authority in belief formation. Next to Alvin Plantinga, Zagzebski is probably my biggest contemporary hero in Christian philosophy and, more specifically, virtue epistemology. Everything she does is lucid and profoundly insightful. The worst book I read this year (and probably for many years) was Willie James Jennings’ The Christian Imagination. It is a work which is unfortunately highly touted in many circles, but which lacks anything like a coherent argument for its thesis. I also read many superb (and a few not so good) scholarly articles pertaining to hell and open-mindedness, my primary scholarly projects these days.
Amy: I read so many great books this year, some for pleasure, some I had to muscle through, and some that were a little bit of both. Mindset by Carol Dweck and A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman were two that challenged my narrative-oriented brain but were well worth the effort as was Reflection on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis, though in a more spiritually edifying way. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin and Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington were sobering reminders of the history of prejudice in our country which both, ironically, left me hopeful about the potential of our future. The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger is one of the best books I read this year and one I couldn’t stop recommending to people. Our family entered the world of the Enneagram with The Road Back to You and I have loved all things P. G. Wodehouse this fall and winter. Lethal White, the next in the series by Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling, did not disappoint.
Best 2018 Family Memories:
Amy: Our 20th wedding anniversary trip in March was wonderful especially our trip to the Toronto Museum of Art and hiking around Montreal. This year was full of transitions for us as a family. Bailey graduated from high school started at Taylor this fall. His absence is felt by us all and yet we are excited to see him moving on to bigger and better things. I wrapped up homeschooling with Maggie and Andrew and with their entrance into our local public school, I have taken on the role of cheerleader rather than teacher, a role I quite enjoy unless it means explaining linear equations, to myself and Maggie, at 11:30 at night. The kids and I took a trip over fall break with my folks and enjoyed beautiful scenery and one another’s company. We have all also loved having my niece, Rachel, living with us this year.
Jim: Our trip to Canada in March was a rewarding and timely excursion. On the way home, we visited Ausable Chasm, the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” which we both enjoyed immensely. Also, seeing our sons Sam and Andrew develop as athletes (soccer for Sam and baseball, basketball, and soccer for Andrew) has been a lot of fun. And having Bailey as a student in my History of Philosophy class at Taylor was also a memorable, if sometimes strange, experience. Also, building a chicken coop and acquiring some chicks (which are now full-grown, ready-to-lay, hens) has been quite the adventure. Lastly, taking part in a two-day retreat of silence at the Abbey of Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky two weeks ago with my father-in-law, brother-in-law, and our six sons was a highlight as well. The extended time of prayer, Bible study, and silent meditation was spiritually enriching and cleansing. And the bourbon chocolate fudge made by the monks was a nice bonus!
Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year
Here are some of the best quotes of the year from our kids, which come from Maggie (14) and Sam (16):
- Maggie: “I wish cancer would get cancer and die.”
- Sam: “The worst things happen to people when they forget how small they really are.”
- Maggie: “Moms know. Dads understand.”
- Sam: “No one is anonymous under the divine eyes.”
- Maggie: (in a conversation about sexual ethics) “Truth does not have an expiration date. It’s not frickin’ milk.”
- Maggie: “If someone kidnapped me and held me against my will but gave me ice cream regularly, I would stay.”
New Year’s Resolutions:
Amy: I want to strive to be more disciplined in scripture reading. I am working on turning worries into prayers and with my career as a homeschooling mom coming to an end, I am figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.
Jim: Once again, my primary goal this year is to be more regular with posts on Wisdom and Folly. But I really mean it this time!
Happy 2019 everyone!