Best of 2018 in Music, Movies, and Books

Friendship: that’s a highlight in any year. Love these women.

Friendship: that’s a highlight in any year. Love these women.

Overall, this was a stellar year. I got to see some new places and revisit old favorites, start a new business and start a job share that was successful and deepened a friendship, and had some experiences that were surprising and incredible. Like my first NASCAR race.

My business partner Alice Chase and I started Thrills and Wheels, our homage to our passion: the automotive industry. And each of us were honored with an Iris Award at the Mom2 Summit, one of of my big goals for 2018. The Nissan team brought me to LA to walk the red carpet for Mary Poppins Returns, which was as glamorous as I expected. The charity event I founded, Touch-a-Truck, generated over $100K for the SAFE Alliance, which serves survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

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When my husband and I set our goals at the beginning of the year, one of them was to take our son to Disney World for the first time, and with some help from the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Disney, and the Universal Studios Cabana Bay Beach Resort, we had much-appreciated sponsorships to see both Disney World and Universal Studios, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is just flat-out awesome. And Chrysler sent a Pacifica Hybrid our way to drive from Texas to Florida, which my son fell in love with. Mostly the entertainment system, on which he played movies and games all the way to Orlando.

Enough about me, though, because I want to take a minute to recognize works of art that are notable on their own in music, books, and online writing. Onward to 2019, and may your year be full of love, wisdom, humor, kindness., and the Oxford comma (grammar nerds, unite!).

BOOKS

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Janelle Hanchett’s I’m Just Happy to Be Here is a can’t-put-it-down memoir about substance abuse and alcoholism. In real life, I know Janelle is caring, hilarious, and pulls absolutely no punches in this book that is raw with honesty. She doesn’t want or need pity, though, nor does she ask for forgiveness. But she now knows that speaking her experiences out loud helps others, and she does so unflinchingly.

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My friend Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s son Jack died seven years ago in a flash flood; I remember reading about it, my heart pounding, and then reading it again and sobbing. A few years later, Anna and I became friends and I have had the great fortune to have her in my life. This year, she released A Hug from Heaven, a children’s book that gives comfort in grief. In child-friendly poetry, A Hug from Heaven is exactly what a kid might need after the loss of a loved one.

More favorites: David Baldacci’s The Fix is action packed, and I finally caught up on Brad Thor’s Hidden Order, which was impossible to stop reading until I finished it late one night.

Next on my list: Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give

MUSIC

I took my 9yo son to his third Austin City Limits Music Festival this October, and we had a ball. We especially loved X Ambassadors, Bazzi, Metallica, and Travis Scott (and honestly, I wasn’t excited about seeing Travis Scott, but he was incredible in concert).

Have you ever heard of Xavier Omär? Check him out, because what is unique and special about Xavier is that he deliberately writes and chooses lyrics that are respectful to women. His songs speak of cherishing the women in his life and treating them the way they should be treated, not maligning them, objectifying them, or hurting them. His smooth voice carries his R&B tunes to your brain in a way that makes you feel safe and happy.

Maybe it’s because of the tear-jerker video, but the collaboration between Marshmello and Bastille for “Happier” is one that I turn up every single time. It’s wrenchingly sad but gorgeous. And the beat has you rooting for the protagonist in the song, making it feel like you’re in the middle of an 80s movie.

Other favorite songs:

“Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer

Cardi B, J Balvin & Bad Bunny, "I Like It"

Khalid & Normani, "Love Lies"

Shawn Mendes’ “Lost in Japan”

Kendrick Lamar & SZA, "All the Stars"

And I know it’s not new, but I have heard a remixed version of John Legend’s “All of Me”, and I love it.

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MOVIES

First, let’s talk about Emily Blunt’s triumph as the title character in Mary Poppins Returns. Seeing her on the red carpet was a highlight of my year, her husband John Krasinski smiling proudly next to her. She shined in this movie, and her singing voice blew me away. Lin-Manuel Miranda was, of course, perfect for the role of the dancing and singing Jack. Read my full review on AlphaMom.

I took my son and three other boys (age 9, 12, and 14) to see Black Panther earlier this year; it was my son’s first Marvel movie. While we were driving home after the movie, we all discussed the importance of this movie from a cultural perspective and what it means to boys of color to have a hero who looks like them. On top of that, the effects were spectacular. My personal favorite: Leticia Wright as the sassy teenage technology whiz Shuri.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Bumblebee is a movie about a girl and her car?? I hadn’t planned to see it but acquiesced when a friend bought tickets for us to see it with our sons. The tenderness between Charlie and Bumblebee is sweet and the girl-power themes both surprised and delighted me. I had never seen a Transformers movie before, and I hear this one is different from the rest, which works for me. Take your daughters to see it, because Charlie is a heroine to remember. It got a great rating from Rotten Tomatoes, too.

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Farewell, 2018, and welcome 2019!