27 August 2014

The books of summer 2014

The One and Only by Emily Giffin
Every Day by David Levithian
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
One Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler
In the Blood by Lisa Unger
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

I was able to read quite a few books during my summer hiatus from school, only a few of which, highlighted above, I really liked.  I'm working on Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement right now, and then I'll read Somerset by Leila Meacham, a prequel to her Roses, which I read a few years ago.  On my want-to-read list are Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherford, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and Lisa See's China Dolls.


We are settled back into the routine of school (summer passed by in a blink without me ever getting back into a blogging groove) and starting the day before 6...Ryan turns the TV on when I get up and we listen to the local news and then the Today show most mornings as we race around in the early morning darkness putting together outfits and packing lunches and preparing to go our separate ways when it's home together we'd all like to be...Sometimes the headlines are more than I can stomach any time of the day, much less first thing when I wake up.  The world goes crazy--both far from us and just a three hour drive up the interstate--but still we get up, get dressed, head out into our little part of it and try to focus on the good to be done, the good to take in.

Then yesterday in my classroom I flip through the copy of Alice Walker's The Color Purple I've had since college--it's my favorite book of all time and I've read it over and over--and see my unfocused feelings spelled out in black and white:

"Then Shug and me go fall out in her room to listen to music till all that food have a chance to settle.  It cool and dark in her room.  Her bed soft and nice.  Us lay with our arms round each other.  Sometimes Shug read the paper out loud.  The news always sound crazy.  People fussing and fighting and pointing fingers at other people, and never even looking for no peace.

"People insane, say Shug.  Crazy as betsy bugs.  Nothing built this crazy can last.  Listen, she say.  Here they building a dam so they can flood out a Indian tribe that been there since time.  And look at this, they making a picture bout that man that kilt all them women.  The same man that play the killer is playing the priest.  And look at these shoes they making now, she say.  Try to walk a mile in a pair of them, she say.  You be limping all the way home.  And you see what they trying to do with that man that beat the Chinese couple to death. Nothing whatsoever.

"Yeah, I say, but some things pleasant."

18 June 2014

Z is for Zelda (Zelda is for me)


I finished a really great book last night.  Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler reminded me of the spirit or intent of The Paris Wife in that it told a fictionalized first-person version of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald's life based on deep and meticulous historical research (Fowler included her own rewriting of many of the couple's letters, which I liked) similar to the way TPW told one for Hadley Hemingway.  I am 100% Team Zelda after reading the novel and felt sad to have reached the last page late last night. She had style and talent--as a writer, a dancer, a conversationalist--with a once fiery marriage that ended up draining her and an adventurous, decadent lifestyle that took its toll.  The book transported me to a time (and many places--Paris, NYC, among others) I have always been interested in and I enjoyed it very much, especially Chapter 39:

"Beyond our royal lawn, the river flows past, broad and brown and silent, unconcerned with the little party gathered at its bank this afternoon, the twenty-first of May.  It's 1927, but it could be a hundred years earlier or a thousand or three; the river doesn't know or care.  It doesn't care, either, about the dramas playing out among the people at this picnic, or about the one taking place in the sky far to the northeast, where Charles Lindberg is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Paris with a single engine in a single flight.

"If the river has a soul, it's a peaceful one.  If it has a lesson to impart, that lesson is patience.  There will be drought, it says; there will be floods; the ice will form, the ice will melt; the water will flow and blend into the river's brackish mouth, then join the ocean between Lewes and Cape May, endlessly, forever, amen...

"My dress for this picnic is as brown as the river.  As much as I'm succeeding in imitating the river's appearance, I haven't been able to assimilate its wisdom--and won't, not until years later...

"The sight of one of the maids standing on the porch and waving a dish towel gets our attention.  'It was on the radio!' she calls.  'Mr. Lindberg just landed his plane in Paris!'

"We foolishly look up at the sky past the treetops, as if we can see the plane, see it descending lower, lower, then disappearing from our sight.  It is the end of an astonishing journey, I think.  All done now, nothing more to see."

09 June 2014

Farewell, sweet girl

We said a sad but peaceful goodbye to an old friend this weekend.  Our timid little Averie, the blonde kitty Ryan and I had for over 17 years, left us early Sunday morning.  She had been acting different on Friday and then retreated to the master bathroom and stayed very still for the entire day on Saturday.  She was always too skittish to be held, but when I got in bed Saturday night, I cradled her in a towel and laid her on my chest.  She was limp but breathing softly.  I dozed off but was awake when I felt her take a final soft gasp about 2 a.m.  We buried her Sunday morning in Ryan's parents' backyard in Bolivar with our little kitty Emma Jean and a host of Ryan's beloved childhood pets. The house feels different today without her in her usual spot on the floor at the end of the couch in the living room.  Ryan and I sat on the bathroom floor this weekend and cried, not only for her loss, but also in the nostaglic remembering of all the events of almost our entire relationship big and small she's been around for.  He adopted her from a cage at PetSmart and gave her to me for Christmas in 1997, when we were living in our townhouse on Guinevere, and she has moved with us to five other houses since. She and our gray girl Allie had been constant companions for almost two decades.  I hope she felt loved until the end.  Goodbye, little Ave.

13 May 2014


It's been a ridiculously long time since I have blogged, but I'm hoping to change that once school is out for the summer on 28 May.  I'd have an awful lot of backtracking to do if I tried to cover all that we've been up to, but I have to tell myself it's okay to let some of it go and just jump back in.  We were afraid that spring had skipped us entirely when we transitioned so quickly into 80+ degree temps, but this week it's gray and colder and I kind of hope the rain sticks around.  The yard is green and I put some plants out in my containers (nicotania in the flower boxes on the back patio) this past weekend and mulched the front beds.  I've got a mental list of clean up/clean out/redo projects to start checking off once my days are free and I've been thinking about what I want to read.  We might do a cruise this summer, just the three of us, and my sisters and I plan to take a girls trip to Lindsay's new condo in Marco Island, Florida in July.  Macauley is taking a break from swim team this summer, and I have to say I am relieved without that obligation hanging over us, especially because he was getting burned out and I hate to think I've ruined him on the one thing he really, really enjoys.  He's been funneling much of his energy lately into trying to learn Swedish via an app on his ipod in hopes of one day being a foreign exchange student there.  My mind has been full these last few weeks with all sorts of responsibilities and loose ends and finishing up at school.  I've been enjoying my work there this semester (last semester, not as much) but I, of course, am ready to come up for breath this summer and leave it all behind.  9 and 2/3 days until then...

05 January 2014

{s}no school

We've already gotten the call that there is no school tomorrow due to the 6-8 inches of snow that fell last night and this morning, as well as the low temps and negative windchill in Monday's forecast.  So we are nestled in here at 5380 South Woodfield.  I got the Christmas decor put away before our holiday break was over and the house feels a little plain without it.  I've been doing the quintessential organizing and cleaning out that comes with this time of year and have a few projects on deck.  

Ryan is really sick, so I made chocolate chip cookies for him even though he might not have the appetite for them.  I'll have to wake him up in a bit for the 49ers playoff game, so I've got a fire going in the living room and Booker is warming up the couch for him.  The snow has stopped, I think--at least for a couple of days--but I don't see us leaving the cozy confines of home any time soon.

14 November 2013

celebrate {good times}

My sisters and I hosted a birthday party for my parents last Saturday at their house in Cassville.  My dad turned 60 on 30 October and my mom's 60th birthday is 28 December.  We figured 60 was a milestone worth celebrating, and a good reason to have an event for friends and family at their new-ish farm.  The weather was beautiful, the yard picturesque, and the turnout was great.  My sisters were in charge of the food and I did the decor and setup on the back patio.  I used mostly things I already had--flea market crates, the pumpkins and mums from my front portch--to accentuate the fall decor my mom already had in place.  We had a firepit in the driveway for everyone to gather their chairs around.  It was nice to see lots of old friends from Cassville, but I was especially glad to have some of our family from Oklahoma there:  my aunt Debbie and her husband Jerry (and her cute little dog, Chip!), my cousin's adorable little girl Gray, my dad's sister Cathey and my uncle Rick, and most of all, my sweet 92-year-old Grandpa Jude.  I squeezed him often and much while I had a chance.  Quite a treat to see him and so nice for him to be happy and getting around okay and enjoying himself. I took lots of pictures and also had guests write little messages, all of which I hope to package in a small scrapbook memento for my parents.  An all-around lovely day!

I'm linking up to Debra's Common Ground..Hi Debra!

10 November 2013

we will miss you, Pop...

We lost Ryan's grandfather week before last.  He was kind, generous and funny, a business success, a flirt and an animal lover.  Most of all, he was a huge part of Ryan's life.  We were just talking last night about how many of his personality traits, interests and abilities he inherited from Pop.  There's a lot more to say, but for now I wanted to post links to this tribute from an old friend of Charles and this detailed write up from the front page of the Bolivar town newspaper, as well as the link to his obituary and online guestbook. Ryan's parents have been receiving letter after letter these last couple of weeks from people they never knew who Charles helped over the years. I can't wait to look through them myself.  He left a legacy and that makes his passing at the age of 94 a little easier, but it's just so hard to say goodbye...I personally can't thank him enough for some very generous things he's done for me over the years and also for helping to raise such a good boy for me to marry...

RIP, Charlie by Dave Berry
Many throughout the region will have stories to tell about Charles Fraser, who died last Tuesday at age 94. There would be even more if he hadn’t outlived so many friends and associates.

Among the stories is the one about how several months ago he was given only a few weeks to live, but until just days before his death he could still be seen mowing his lawn despite near blindness and other maladies that would have idled the common man.
And the one about his many treks back and forth to Parkview Residential Care Center, crossing a busy highway to care for his friend Elizabeth Teters over the last few years of her life.
I developed an instant liking for Charlie the moment I met him in 1977. As a banker and youth baseball coach he reminded me of another banking Charlie who had done his best to coach me in Aurora Little League. As it turned out, they were close friends and golfing buddies over many years.
And I grew even fonder of banker Fraser in 1978 when he loaned us $25,000 to buy what was then the Bolivar Bowl, sporting six lanes in what is now a warehouse for Roweton Home Center, alongside N. Springfield Ave.
The wife and I would go back later to borrow more to buy used pinsetters to replace leased units that AMF was trying to force us to buy at an outrageous price. What AMF was saying was worth a fortune went straight to Yeargain Salvage for scrap after I happily told them to come and get them, because a friendly banker agreed they were trying to take unfair advantage of us.
In both cases, Charlie had absolutely no reason to have confidence I would have the means or wherewithal to repay those loans, other than what he saw in my eyes or felt in my handshake. And, for that matter, neither did I.
To this day I don’t know for certain if Commerce Bank issued those loans to us or if the bank just serviced what Charlie put up out of his own pocket. I would later find out he and other country bankers were prone to do the latter on occasion, something technically prohibited even then but out of the question in today’s regulated banking world.
But truth be known, the loans probably had more to do with the other signature on those documents — my wife’s, whose smile and legs he appreciated. He was a safe flirt all the way to the end.
Either way, the loans were repaid in full and we gained a gold mine’s worth of experience that is paying dividends still today.
There are countless stories like that out there involving people who were helped by Charles Fraser in some fashion. Some probably didn’t end with full repayment of the loans or mutual appreciation for the acts, but there are valuable lessons in that, too.
Of course, I’ll also never forget him because of his donation of the land upon which John Playter Rotary Park was developed.
Or for the column material he occasionally provided, such as when he, as a snowbird in Florida, set out plastic bags for the trash truck to pick up when preparing to head north to Bolivar. The bags turned out to be filled not with trash but with some of his wife’s best clothes.
Or the time his wife, Georgia, received a sympathy card from a friend who, from a kitchen window many yards away, witnessed Charlie heeding the call of nature behind a bush on the Bolivar Municipal Golf Course.

Rest in peace, old friend.
'He loved helping people' Friends remember Bolivar's Charles Fraser by Matthew Barba
Looking at the list of accomplishments which punctuate Charles Fraser’s life, it is easy to tell he touched many people’s lives. Some remember him as their competitor in business, a friend for life, and perhaps most importantly, a good golf buddy.
Charles Ruel Fraser was born June 12, 1919, in Polk, the son of Elgie and Elpha Fraser. While he grew up working in the family’s grocey stores, many people remember Fraser as one of Polk County’s iconic bankers.
In addition to his wife, Georgia Lee, Fraser was often found in the company of Gerald Stephens and his late wife, Helen.
“We were the best of friends,” Stephens said. “His wife and my wife were such close friends, and Charlie and I played many, many rounds of golf together.”
Stephens said when he finally retired the Frasers would invite them down to their place in Florida for some rest and relaxation.
“Charlie and I would go play golf, and the girls would go shopping,” Stephens said with a laugh.
Stephens said that while others might have thought Fraser was a little “unusual” as a banker, his way of helping people in need is what really shone through about him.
“Everyone admired Charlie because he was good at helping people and he was glad to do it,” Stephens said. “I certainly miss the guy.”
Fraser was tapped in the fall of 1961 to run the Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank of Bolivar. He had no previous banking experience but his work ethic and knowledge from operating grocery stores in Bolivar, Stockton, Buffalo, El Dorado Springs and Lebanon gave him an edge that showed in how he conducted business.
“Charles was the most competitive human being that I ever met in my life,” recalled Dave Strader, vice president of Bank of Bolivar. “He was competitive whether he was vying for a bank customer or on the golf course.”
“From a banking standpoint, he was good competition, but he was also a real proponent of Bolivar’s growth and development,” Strader added.
While Strader remembers Fraser’s competitiveness well, a fonder memory is from when the two were neighbors.
He was the greatest neighbor that anybody could ever have,” Strader said. “We were neighbors for many years. He and his dog, Bogie, were constant companions and an absolute joy to be around.”
Shaping young lives
Golf was a passion for Fraser but it was hardly the only sport he helped cultivate in Bolivar and Polk County. Bill Jones remembers when Fraser helped start up Little League baseball in Bolivar.
The Fraser Yankees were one of four teams formed in 1956; other teams included Newport, a dime store; Foremost Dairy; and Houk Dairy.
“Charles Fraser was instrumental in forming a Little League here in Bolivar,” said Bill Jones, a player on the Fraser Yankees in 1956 and 1957. “Virgil Hogan had a vision to form a league, and Charles Fraser and others followed up on that vision while Hogan was here and after he moved from the area.”
When Bill Jones played for the Fraser Yankees, Charles Fraser was the manager; other coaches were Joe Otradovec, Gerald Stephens and Jim Strange.
“Fraser helped us young boys play baseball for several years before forming the league,” Jones said. “He helped take us to Springfield to play against teams there Sunday afternoons. We also played some of our games at Northward school — you could hit the ball over into the Dunnegan’s garden.”
Jim Sterling, former publisher of the BH-FP, remembered Fraser fondly. “He was a great Polk countian.”
Sterling added, “When they opened the Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank, it really helped the business community grow and the entire economy blossomed.
“Charlie was a good banker, a good grocer, a good citizen and a good family man and friend to many,” Sterling said. “And I supposed he’d like to be remembered as a good golfer.”
One person who saw both friend and family man aspects of Fraser was David Cribbs, who described Fraser as “a partner, my banker, competitor on the golf course and one of my best friends.”
“He was like a father to me,” Cribbs said. “My father [Clifford] died early and I came home to run the business. He and dad were very close, and Charlie became just like a father to me.”
One thing that Fraser was responsible for, along with others including Clifford Cribbs, was starting the Bolivar Nursing Home, now owned by Citizens Memorial Hospital, which was the start for local health care services.
Cribbs said that without Fraser, who was humble and selfless, he would not be where he is today.
“I really loved that man because without all of his advice, his character and loaning me money, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Cribbs said. “That man has done a lot behind the scenes and he never wanted to be recognized.”


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