Reading lots of best-of lists recently, I took cheer in how quickly I could come up with my own. Try listing your own best times. You may see, like I did, that even an iffy year brings good moments. I'm grateful for that.
As for this list, it's like my life -- a busy and jumbled mix of work, family and precious private time. Here goes:
Best movie I saw: "Lincoln," no question. I don't see many movies in theaters, but my 25-year-old son coaxed me to this one. Daniel Day-Lewis is stunning as the president during America's bloodiest war. The politics, as shown in Steven Spielberg's film, speak loudly about leaders working for the greater good.
Best book I read: "The Road," Cormac McCarthy's 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Again, it was at my older son's urging that I read this harrowing tale of a father and son walking through the darkest world imaginable. All is destroyed, and the reader doesn't know why. People left on the scorched earth have mostly turned to savagery. The writing is spare and intense. It's not new, but this book is a good fit for edgy times, especially with the end-time buzz of 2012. "The Road" isn't light bedtime reading, but you can't put it down -- or forget it.
Best events I attended: The dedication of a bronze bust of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson on May 20 at Everett's Grand Avenue Park, and the May 31 event marking the centennial of Jackson's birth in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena. I was moved at both events to see the crowds -- political leaders and ordinary working people -- and to learn more about the influential senator who was a hometown presence and a loving family man. This year's Jackson tributes were a gift to Snohomish County.
Best party: My parents' 65th wedding anniversary. Their three children, six grandchildren, sons-in-law and a great-grandson hid in my sister's back yard to surprise my parents, who were married May 3, 1947. Born in the early 1920s, they have experienced so much. That evening reinforced the enduring strength of family.
Best party, runner-up: "Happy birthday, dear Henry ..." My darling grandson turned 1 on Dec. 2. Seeing him sink his fingers into the cake my daughter made him was one of life's great delights. Henry's little cake had cream-cheese frosting sweetened with apple juice, not sugar -- one more indication that my daughter is the best mom ever. That, too, is a wonder to see.
Best party, second runner-up: The 40th reunion of Joel E. Ferris High School's class of 1972, a rooftop party on a Spokane summer night. If you have never gone to a class reunion, just go. Somehow, those friendships seem to grow stronger and sweeter with time. At my 40th reunion, the best conversation I had was with an engineer who had been a superstar athlete in high school. He had never been to a reunion. And I had never spoken to him in high school. Back then, I didn't have the nerve. How nice that what was once intimidating is now just fun.
Best tradition (work category): Our Herald newsroom editors cook a right-before-Christmas breakfast for us every year. It's a special day when you walk into the newsroom and instead of hearing the clack of typing you catch the aroma of bacon from an upstairs kitchen. During the busiest week of the year, that breakfast is a much appreciated treat.
Best tradition (personal category): I was back for a week this year at Priest Lake, Idaho, where my family has gone every summer for years. Nothing much changes there. Each year I go back to a cozy log cabin, a sparkling lake unspoiled by crowds, a sandy beach, views of the Selkirk Mountains, and many memories. Something my youngest child said shows he knows me too well, something along the lines of, "Mom, all you want to do is be an old lady in this cabin, reading books." Someday, kid.
For now, I look forward to the best of what 2013 will bring.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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