January 1, 2015

Real Life Nail Colors 2015

My son gave me a Sephora gift card for Christmas, which was much appreciated. I redeemed part of it on a bottle of Formula X nail polish. While pricey, I gotta say it applies like a dream and complements my skin tone. Because I shopped by holding bottle after bottle against my hand, I didn't read the shade's name until this morning: Impeccable. I'm many things each day, but Impeccable is not one of them.

Turns out my polish is one of Sephora's New Neutrals. 31 blends with names like Perfection, Potent, Brilliant, Extraordinary. Their pitch: "Our groundbreaking formula delivers the ultimate super-talent nail color, while our breathtaking array of shades and effects provides endless inspiration. Now you can finally have it all."

This got me thinking about creating a line of nail colors for real life:

Creams:
Passive Aggressive Pink
Lick the Bowl Blueberry
Yelling Mother Mauve
Too Much Pino Purple
Piles O' Laundry Pewter
Car Trouble Turquoise
Burnout Black
Couch Potato Cranberry
Flunking Out Fuchsia
Road Rage Red

Frosts:
Bored at Work White
Sneaking a Cig Cinnamon
Bored at Home Hazel
Little White Lie Beige

Not sure how well they'd market but I can certainly picture each shade. Can't you?

December 20, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

Happy Holidays from the French Family!

I so enjoy writing our annual Christmas letter. This past year saw ups and downs (and a few sideways thingies, too).

Lew continues to work those tough crossword puzzles and improvement is apparent. He attributes said improvement to his embrace of Crossfit. Looking to avoid the winter couch potato blues, he went over to our local franchise to see what all the hype and WOD was about. Honestly, it has been great, physically and mentally. Now, if I could just get him to stop flipping monster truck tires in the family room...

credit: Rankin/Bass Productions; Vic's beard
Vic and Claire left Nashville for a lovely apartment in Chicago. Claire continues her studies at The Art Institute and recently finished an oil on canvas series titled, "Still Life with Chicago Cubs World Series Memorabilia." A rather limited exhibit, she admits. As desired, Vic's music business is expanding, giving him time to reach out and help others. Just last month, he donated his oft-complimented beard to the Beard-Challenged Benevolence Society. After all, not everyone can grow one and you'd be amazed at the demand!

Jack continues his studies, earning good marks last semester. Touch and go, though, what with him being an atheist taking World Religions. In the end, he was saved. Er, I mean he passed and dinner table conversations are that much more thought-provoking. A truly positive force in our house with his indefatigable Bulls basketball loyalty, we have all learned to never turn the channel or leave the United Center before the final buzzer. Thank you, Jack!

Kristen graduated from high school and moved to DePaul in Lincoln Park. Who knew one could double major in Investment Banking AND Community Organizing? Add to this her gig at a pizza place where she learned to fire the ovens and make excellent pizza and calzone from scratch, our daughter is nothing if not prepared for goodness knows what faces her generation!

Another year, another 7 dog years for our beloved Farley. That makes her 98, give or take. Wisely, she has adjusted by only chasing senior squirrels and rabbits. How can she tell which ones are seniors, you ask? I'm not sure, but I suspect they're the ones in the yard eating dinner at 4 p.m.

As for me, all is good. Back in April, I started selling handmade soaps on Etsy. While I was forcibly removed from the site in July due to three people being hospitalized after washing with my Lovely Lavender Bars, I consider the episode a positive one. And goodness knows, a glass-half-full attitude is essential when one is being sued.

Gosh, I hope this finds you well and we wish everyone a joyous holiday season and Happy New Year! Ready or not, here comes 2015. Love, Jane.

December 6, 2014

The Most Important Thing


credit: Brian Sokol. Refugee in Iraq via Damascus
"What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous journey to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project (from photographer Brian Sokol) that asks refugees from different parts of the world, 'What is the most important thing you brought from home?' The first chapter focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road." Source: Panos Pictures UK's website

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

By the time I pulled in, the parking lot was packed. My husband usually picked up the turkey but he couldn't make it before closing so I loaded our youngest, then two, into the car and drove over in the dark.

I tried not to take kids with me to the grocery store. Shopping alone and uninterrupted, I felt a level of smugness every time I'd witness other children acting up. My favorites were moms who tried to reason with their toddlers. "Now Billy, we've discussed this. You know Fruit Loops are high in sugar and lack any nutritional value. Instead, let's go pick out some lovely carrots and eggplant."

In an alternate universe, Billy would help check the eggplants for freshness.

In this universe, he'd look at his mother like she was a meanie and keep yelling.

November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

I just got off the phone with my dad. He said the real heroes are the guys buried in Europe. The guys who never got home. I said, "That's Memorial Day." He knows. He wanted to tell me how he feels about it, is all.

Talking to him reminded me of a story I wrote.

Prom

I met my son at the downtown menswear store to pick up his senior prom tuxedo. Traditional black with a purple vest and long tie to compliment his date’s dress color. Other boys were already there, having walked ahead after school let out. When it was his turn to go with the salesman and throw on the uniform, I snapped a pic. Seventeen and dapper, smiling through braces, hand stylishly tucked in pants pocket. All that’s left is to pick up her flowers and take group pictures tomorrow.

His dad and I decided to chip in for a limo since the prom is at a hotel in another town and four couples want to travel together. Several hundred dollars per couple before most everyone leaves home for a college dorm.

My dad’s senior prom took place during WWII. Gasoline was rationed then, first as a recommendation and then by government decree. Other commodities rationed were meat, butter, sugar, coffee, tea, eggs, rice, soap, electricity, and clothing.

October 31, 2014

The Mulligan

I didn't finish my Halloween story in time. Instead, here's one I wrote years ago that seems to fit.

The Mulligan

This hangover was going to make a day of it. How she let herself get talked into shots was too nauseating to recall. Besides, she so knew better. Was anyone else as sick? Of course, none of them had the job or early meetings. She carried a lot of responsibility at the firm and client screw-ups didn’t go unnoticed. Her lost commissions made more work for co-workers already living one check to the next.

“You idiot.” Loathing punched around her headache as she patted “Pure Radiance” concealer under roughed up eyes. And so much for cutting down on the cigs. What was that, over a pack smoked from happy hour til closing? “Lord, just get me through this meeting.”

Settling into the car and waiting a beat for all motion to please stop, a weight pushed hard on her chest. Unsure, she looked down accusingly at the seat belt and tensed up. When it eased a few moments later, she inhaled deeply and swore to herself, “OK! From now on I’m off all the junk.” Turning the key, a second weight crushed down such that she impulsively released the belt.

And waited.

As with most sudden scares, there was an aftershock of heart pounding. Her queasy stomach rejoined immediately, signaling that some manner of vomiting was now probable.

October 19, 2014

Obituary Writing, Draft 1

I've read that writing one's own obituary is therapeutic, doubly so for writers. (I made this last part up.) Here goes with draft 1:

FRENCH, JANE

Jane French nee Doherty, of Naperville, IL since 1998, passed suddenly and unexpectedly into eternity on Friday, October 18, 2014 after a brief admission to Edward Hospital's emergency room from injuries sustained in a fall at home while carrying a load of laundry down a flight of stairs. It is estimated she carried laundry in this fashion 4,500 times without incident. Until October 18.

Jane is survived by her long-suffering and beloved husband, Lewis, and cherished children, Victor, Jack, and Kristen. She is also survived by her parents, six siblings, their spouses, and several nieces and nephews.

Born into this world during the month of May in Crystal Lake, IL, Jane was a mediocre cook and an inveterate daydreamer. She held positions at various social welfare organizations, from Hull House Association to Loaves & Fishes Community Services, finishing with a stint in leadership education programs.

Jane began writing short stories and essays in a resolute fashion ten years ago and leaves behind a stack of unfinished manuscripts and rejections in her home office.

In accordance with her wishes, cremation has taken place with arrangements by Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home. Jane was promptly and thoroughly raked into the flower garden, having communicated that memorial contributions be given to Planned Parenthood.

October 5, 2014

The Best Possible Day

From The New York Times, a Sunday Review piece by Atul Gawande on death and how we handle remaining days:

"Medicine has forgotten how vital such matters are to people as they approach life’s end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, connect with loved ones, and to make some last contributions to the world. These moments are among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind. And the way we in medicine deny people these moments, out of obtuseness and neglect, should be cause for our unending shame."

Read the whole thing here.

August 16, 2014

The 40s: The story of a decade

This isn't a review so much as a reflection on The New Yorker magazine's anthology: The 40s: The story of a decade. Divided into seven parts - The War, American Scenes, Postwar, Character Studies, The Critics, Poetry, Fiction - it totals 700 pages and resembles a thick magazine issue, minus cartoons.

As a long-time subscriber, I approached the book as I do an issue: scan the table of contents and contributors, skip to the back for the cartoon caption contest, then jump from movie and theater reviews to profiles, fiction, and so on, until the next issue arrives.

The anthology, almost seventy years old, belies how conventional we are even as we're sure we're not. Insert current conflicts and cultural behaviors, and it is jarring how we still self-deceive ahead of events about to crash through the roof: "Paris Postscript (On the Fall of France)" by A. J. Liebling is fresh and poignant.

In the September 2, 1939 issue, E.B. White reluctantly admitted The New Yorker could no longer ignore approaching disaster and delivered a last bit of magical thinking in his Notes and Comment: "Let me whisper I love you while we are dancing and the lights are low."

July 19, 2014

Beck kills it at Pitchfork

I intended to post a story about gratitude today. Was going to finish it after reading the paper. As happens with online scanning, I jump around quite a bit and ended up setting aside the gratitude piece.

This morning, The Chicago Tribune reported that 22 people got shot in the city during a 24 hour period. One of those people was an eleven year old girl. Inside her bedroom at 9:35 last night in the 3900 block of West Gladys Avenue, a stray bullet found her. Eleven years old. Shot in the head. Inside a bedroom. At 9:35 p.m. in a residential neighborhood. Hear about it?

Pitchfork Music Festival is also happening in Chicago this weekend. Someone from our house attends just about every year. One of my kids is there now on a 3 day pass. I asked, "Who was on at about 9 last night?" I clicked on Pitchfork's Facebook page and saw this post regarding that time slot:
























Here's some perspective on locations - 3900 West Gladys versus Pitchfork (about 3 miles):













I'm sure Beck put on a great show. I'm confident that the thousands of people in the park had fun listening to his music and partying. But, in the time it takes blow dry Beck's hair, you can drive from Pitchfork to that girl's bedroom and see what killing it really looks like.