It has been an eventful year. On top of the Covid pandemic, we’ve endured some personal losses but nothing that God will not redeem for great good. As usual we are closing out the year with summary remarks about good and bad stuff related to film, music, books, sports, food, and family.
Jim: With Covid restrictions preventing us from going to the theaters, we watched all of our films this year at home, in many cases catching up on films from previous years. For me, the biggest disappointment was The Lighthouse, which is well acted (by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) with tremendous cinematography but ultimately an aimless, oppressive narrative. A more successful attempt at twisted horror is As Above So Below (2014), which could be described as American Treasure meets Blair Witch Project in the catacombs of Paris. Dante would be proud . . . maybe. I was mesmerized by the docudrama Wormwood (2017), which is another film that features a dark psychological trip of sorts, as the principle subject, Eric Olson, seeks to get to the bottom of the death of his father, Frank Olson, who supposedly committed suicide while working for the CIA in 1953. Whoa. Finally, I highly recommend the surprisingly profound My Octopus Teacher, which chronicles the relationship between filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus off the coast of South Africa. Ever been moved to tears by a mollusk? I was.
Amy: This year has been predominantly about escape when it comes to my viewing habits. I find true crime and detective shows oddly comforting when stressed or sad, inspiring the idea of justice being achievable. Some of my faves this year were Criminal UK and Unbelievable. I also fell down the rabbit hole of The Crown: Season Four, going back and forth between watching and researching the true events. Social Dilemma was terrifying and nearly had me throwing all our phones and devices in the toilet. Emma and Rebecca were period piece highlight and disappointment, respectively. I fell in love with The Unicorn as one of the few shows set in the South I have ever enjoyed.
Food and Music
Amy’s Best Food Experiences of the Year: This year my favorite food experience was a two-parter. First, I loved watching the Great British Baking Show with Bailey and Andrew and then I enjoyed celebrating Andrew’s victory in our competition to predict the winner by going out with Andrew and Bailey at a local restaurant with a good friend as our server. Otherwise, our culinary experiences, like many others, were homebound. Sampling the variety of bakery creations the kids concocted was almost worth all of the clean-up. My traditional birthday meal at Chesapeake’s in Knoxville with Jim, my parents and sister and brother-in-law was especially meaningful this year’s challenges.
Jim’s Best Musical Experiences of the Year: I’ve continued to enjoy the recent spate of female singer-songwriters, including Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, and Madison Cunningham. I appreciated the bold adventurousness of the new Morrissey album, I am Not a Dog on a Chain. The new Dylan album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, was a wonderful surprise. Even more surprising is the fact that the album’s 16-minute closer, “Murder Most Foul” became the first #1 song in the 80-year-old legend’s career. Like millions of others, I was thrilled with both of Taylor Swift’s studio albums released this year—Folklore and Evermore, which are really a time-released double album (a la Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac). With these albums, Swift further cements her status as one of the best songwriters of our time, a fact that is sadly missed on many people, whether due to latent sexism or a simple failure to study the lyrics of her songs. But I digress . . . My most exciting musical discovery this year was the band MeWithoutYou. I regret to confess that I’m late to the party with these guys. But, man, has it been fun doing the deep dive into their seven albums . . . just in time for the band to announce they are calling it quits.
Jim’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Watching two frustrated sports franchises finally break through to win championships in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs) and Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) was gratifying. Normally I wouldn’t pull for an L.A. team, but after knocking at the door for several years and being denied by the cheating Houston Astros a few years ago, it was good to see the Dodgers finally reach the mountain top, especially for Clayton Kershaw, who by all accounts is an admirable Christian guy.
Amy’s Favorite Sports Moments of the Year: Like so many things this year my favorite sports moment was bittersweet. Because of my work schedule I don’t often get to see my kids play, but I enjoyed cheering on Sam in his final soccer game of the year. Though it was heartbreaking to see Eastbrook lose in overtime in the sectional playoffs, Jim and I couldn’t be prouder and look forward to watching him play next year for our favorite college coach, Gary Ross.
Jim’s Most Disappointing Sports Moments of the Year: Seeing the Saints going down against the Vikings (again) in the post-season was tough to take last January. But far more painful than that was watching our son, Andrew, break his arm during a basketball game a few weeks ago. Happily, orthopedist Dr. Daniel Edwards at Marion General Hospital worked his magic on our young man, and Andrew is on the mend and will hit the courts again as soon as the cast is cut off.
Amy’s Most Painful Sports Moment of the Year: Because of Covid restrictions on the number of people who can attend kids’ games, I was not able to be at Andrew’s game when he fractured his arm. But seeing Andrew’s courageous response and the excellent care he received was a definite positive.
Jim: My most underwhelming read of the year was Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi book Dune. Just couldn’t get into it, but I’m glad to have read it. I’ve benefitted from digging into Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, which is disturbingly apropos for our time. I also appreciated Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies, which was inspired by, and takes its title from, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag. I’ve also enjoyed working through two classics—Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War and Dante’s Inferno.
Amy: The highlights of the year were James Clear’s Atomic Habits, Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson. The latter book was an especially refreshing read. Despite the crudeness of the title, the book spoke to me in a profound way, both as an individual and as a parent. I intend every one of my kids to read it and recommend that you do the same. And if you don’t care to take my recommendation, then frankly, my dear reader, I don’t give a #@%!
Best 2020 Family Memories
Jim: Our family retreat with my in-laws’ extended family in July was awesome. As always, we divided into teams and had some thrilling competition. I also enjoyed building a barn in Knoxville with my father-in-law and getting to know his mischievous cows, Lulu and Dottie.
Amy: Generally, the time we’ve spent together as a family, with Bailey home more than usual, was special. My niece Rachel’s wedding was definitely a highlight. And my supervisor’s traditional African wedding was a wonderful experience with Jim, Bailey, and Sam.
Best Kids’ Quotes of the Year
- Maggie: “I have a zit on my soul.”
- Andrew: “I think of our time on earth as a terrible sleepover where you just want to go home.”
- Maggie: “Unlike humans, dogs deserve to be loved.”
- Bailey: Regarding his initiation into the world of alcoholic beverages: “It’s like I’ve discovered a new primary color.”
- Maggie: “I want my own guitar so I can get one of those straps and walk around with it in the woods and be one with nature. Wait . . . I hate nature.”
New Year’s Resolutions
Amy: This year has presented Jim and me with some of the most profound challenges of our lives. Next year my hope is that more of my challenges will come from within as I seek to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
Jim: To pray every morning on my knees.
Happy 2021 everyone!