Friday, July 6, 2012

The Last Luau

I decided to save myself the hassle of coming up with a perfectly worded blog post about this year's luau so...Today's blog post is courtesy of my bestest blogger (I taught her everythign she knows) and favorite sister, Cynthia.  Happy Reading!

The Annual Anderson Luaus have been going on for a while.  We have a hard time figuring out when the first "real" luau was because it grew out of a series of graduation and birthday parties in the late 90s.  What we can say is that our family has thrown a big backyard bash every summer since 1996.  That's a lot of luauing.  After the graduations, the luaus kind of became my dad's thing.  It was a time when he got his childhood, high school, and old work friends together to hang out and catch up.  We all thought it was a great idea so we started inviting all of our friends too (some of whom I see only once a year at the luau), and our little parties ballooned into 100+ people, standing room only events.  My dad passed away one week before the luau this year, but there was no doubt in our minds that they party would still go on.  My dad loved these luaus, and he made it known to my mom that the party was to go on with or without him.  The luau became a "memorial celebration" and we partied it up just like Big Ray wanted us to do.  I have to admit that as the day of the luau approached, I really was dreading it.  I wondered why we didn't cancel it in the first place.  After all, the funeral was just three days before the party and when we started cooking on Friday, I really just couldn't get in the "mood" to do it.  However, as the guests started pouring in my whole feeling changed.  There was so much smiling and laughter and love that I remembered why we love the luau in the first place.  It was just like old times, and you could tell that my dad was hanging out there in spirit:)  I didn't take many pictures at the party this year, but between my sister and my pictures, here are a few of the highlights. 

How's that for a highlight?  My brother-in-law's cousin lives in the area and graciously performed the fire-knife dance this year.  It was as awesome as it looks.  Kind of makes our little dance show pale in comparison.  We had a much smaller, reserved "show" than in previous years.  Charlotte, Tehani, my mom, and I each did a dance.  My mom did one of the numbers that she used to perform when her and my dad first met.  (In case you didn't know, my parents met when my mom was dancing back in the day.  My dad's friend owned the restaurant where her group used to dance on the weekends.  I like to say that they met when my mom was an exotic dancer, but she doesn't find that so humorous:)  Even in her old age, Crazy J still hasn't lost it:)

Little Charlotte was definitely the show-stopper though.  She has been practicing her dance for weeks, and my dad loved to watch her practice.  He said that it didn't matter what our dances looked like because she was going to steal the show, and he was right.  If you'd like to check her out, you can click here. (Hopefully this will take you my sister's Facebook page.  She tried to send me the video from her phone, but we're having technical difficulties.)

How adorable is that?  I was afraid she would get up there and freak out when she saw all the people, but she loved it.  I guess I don't have to worry about her being too shy:)  On a random side note, I sewed some matching dresses for Charlotte and Tehani.  I had been wanting to do it for the last couple of years but always ran out of time.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the two of them side by side, but you can still get an idea from the pictures.  I think they turned out pretty cute.

Just like earlier in the week, people really stepped up to help us out with the luau.  My sister's friend and her daughter flew in from Utah, which was great because I think without them, we may not have had all the cooking done in time.  Our old neighbor and her granddaughter were in from southern Illinois, and they helped cook food, set up the tables, and watch Charlotte (thank you so much, Ashley!).  After the party, my dad's guys stayed to helped take down the tent, tables, and chairs and get them ready to go back to the rental place.  Because of them, hours worth of work were completed in less than an hour.  So now the question is--Is this the last luau?  Crazy J has always said that there would be no more luaus after my dad was gone.  To handle all of the inside and outside preparation (which my dad normally did) would just be too much.  And it is--20+ homemade dishes for 100+ people in an immaculately landscaped yard is a lot of time and money for one woman.  But...I'm not sure that the final decision's been made.  We all had so much fun this year.  It was nice to see all the old friends and family that we only see once a year, and it was nice to do something Big Ray loved so much.  So I guess we'll wait and see.  

p.s. If you want another luau next year, you should let Crazy J know.  I think she can be swayed by peer pressure:)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Good Bye

What a difference a week makes.  Just a few hours after I wrote my last blog post, my Dad passed away.  We knew this day was coming but I guess we had hoped that we would be able to put it off as long as possible.  I don't think anyone can ever be truly ready for something like this.

Norm and I flew to Chicago that very same night (just 5 days before we were originally scheduled to go for his birthday luau)  I was glad that we could be there to help with the planning and everything came along as smooth as we could have hoped for.

When my Mom asked me if I could give the eulogy, I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it.  I just tried to remember that I wanted to everyone to hear what I had to say about my dad (not just my sniffles and sobbing :) Here is what I said:
Raymond Carter Anderson was born in Franklin Park, IL on June 23, 1938 and passed away at home on Friday, June 15, 2012. Ray served his country in the Marine Corps from 1961 to 1967. Ray also spent 49 years working in road construction as a superintendent for the RW Dunteman Co, Frandsen & Peters and Plote Inc. He retired in October 2010. Ray's love of gardening, hunting and car racing came second only to his love for his family. Ray is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Jacqueline, nee Arhan; his three children, Laura (Nofoa) Tevaga, Cynthia (Ken) Logsdon and Raymond (Kelly); and his four grandchildren Kobe, Tehani, Charlotte and Ronan; he was preceded in death by his mother Laura Finke, his infant daughter Julie and his sister Laurnelle Wegrzyn. He will be greatly missed. 
I'd be crazy if I thought that I could sum up my dad's entire life in just a few short sentences.  How do I cover all of the things he did, all of the lives he's touched, and the difference that he has made in this world. I also know that don't have enough time to tell you all of the wonderful memories I have of him--like the time that he bagged up all of my clothes and threw them out of the window when I wouldn't clean my room.  Or there's the one (and only) time that I have ever seen my Dad speechless when we threw him a surprise retirement party. 
I would, however, like to share with you just a few of the lessons that I've learned from my Daddy (because yes--my sister, brother and I still call our Dad Daddy :) 
Ray Rule #1--No Excuses My Dad didn't have what others might consider an easy childhood. He was raised on the family's farm with my grandmother, who was a single mother, his sister Laurnelle, and his Uncles Ray, Hank and Tony. When my dad was only 15 years old, he dropped out of high school so he could get a job and help out.  It would've been easy for my Dad to make excuses about all of the reasons why he shouldn’t succeed.  Instead, he went to work and got his first job as a pinsetter at the bowling alley.  After that he became a brick mason and then became the youngest truck driver for Standard Oil. And at the ripe old age of 22, my Dad started working in road construction.  Which bring us to Ray Rule #2...

Find Something You Are Good At And Stick With ItMy Dad was meant to build roads.  He loved what he did and he was good at it too.  I know it sounds strange to say that road construction was his passion, but I think all of you that have worked with him, know that this is true.  He was very proud of the work that he did. In fact, we spent many a Sunday riding around to different job sites that he was working on.  I would even venture to guess that there is not a single person here right now that was able to get here this morning without driving on a road that was built by my Dad and one of his crews. Thats a lot of road. 
Ray Rule #3 is The Early Bird Gets the WormIf I had a nickel for every time I heard him say this, I would be a rich, rich girl.  To say that my Dad was a morning person would be the understatement of the year.  Growing up, none of my friends ever wanted to sleep at my house because they knew that there was a very good chance that we could be awakened before 5am.  I know there are people that sometimes wish they could have more hours in the day—Well, my Dad basically MADE more hours in the day by getting up (and getting us up) while it was still dark out.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was in high school that I finally realized that not all people get up before the sun comes up. I know there are some of you here that know what I am talking about because I actually had TWO different people tell me yesterday that they used to go and hide out in the morning before they were supposed to start working. Othewise my Dad would pull up and tell them “Let’s go to work!” 
I wanted to finish by sharing one of the most important things that I think I have learned from my Dad and that’s thatThere Is Nothing More Important Than Family.  I’m not sure if this was because of his upbringing—growing up without a father—but my Dad always put our family first.  I’d like to share a blog post that I wrote recently that really sums this up for me: 
I've heard and read stories from people about the awful childhoods they had to endure.  I, on the other hand, had a wonderful childhood. Although I wasn't spoiled (ok,  I wasn't spoiled that much :) I don't think I ever wanted for anything.  More important than that, I've always know that my father loved our family. Period.  He's been a wonderful Dad, mentor, friend and example.  I like to think this is part of the reason that I turned out the way I did (you know, only slightly dysfunctional :)  And part of the reason that I am going to miss my Dad so much when he is no longer here.  What if I still have questions for him?  Or need to ask him investing advice? Or talk to him about my next home remodeling project? I KNOW that our family will be together again one day.  And I KNOW that I will be OK after my Dad is gone.  Because of all the things that he has taught me. And shown me. And everything you've done for me and Cynthia and Raymond.  Thank  you.  For everything. 
I wrote this for my Dad late on Friday afternoon.  Just a few short hours before he passed away. As his health declined these last few months he had told me several times “Laura, I’ve lived a great life.  I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do.” My Dad had no regrets. I hope that I can live my life like he did. That I can be the type of person that he raised me to be.  I hope that I can make a difference in this world like he did.  I know it’s made all of the difference in my life having HIM as my Dad. 
I have a card for my Dad that he never got to open. It's his fathers Day card. Id like to read it to him now...
Dear Daddy, 
I hope you know how much I love you and what a great example you have been to me.  You have pushed me to become the person I am today.  Thank you for always believing in me.  I love you--now and forever!
Your #1,
I love you Daddy.  I’m going to miss you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My inheritance

A chip off the old block. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Flip side of the same coin. They say that kids become just like their parents.  If that's really true, I'd like to think that I've inherited many of my finer traits from my Daddy (I'll pass on the bad genes though, thank you very much!)

Well, in honor of Father's Day, I would publicly thank my Dad for all of the things I have inherited from him:

Anderson Forehead
Basketball-head.  Charlie Brown.  These are just a few of the names I was called in grade school thanks to my high and prominent forehead (aka--the Anderson Forehead)  Oh, you can try to cover it with bangs, do a combover or something like that--but its still there.  On a more positive note, its been proven that people with high foreheads are more intelligent, prudent and organized than the general population (Next thing you know, everyone will want their hairlines high on the tops of their heads :)

Gift of gab
I'm a talker (shocking, I know :)  My mom used to get called in when I was in grade school because the teachers didn't know what to do to get me to stop talking!  Well, it wasn't until I was about junior high age that I realized I'd picked up the talkative trait from Big Ray--that man can TALK! My mom liked to call it "movin' dirt" when he and the neighbor would get together and shoot the breeze for hours (and hours) at a time.  (And my apologies to all of the teachers I traumatized in my younger years.  I couldn't help myself--I learned from the best!) Not sure if you talk too much?  You can take this quiz here.

Tick tock--who broke my clock?
Some people inherit a large estate from their dad.  I inherited a messed up internal clock that thinks it is normal to wake up before the sun is up.  Growing up my friends never wanted to sleep over at my house because they knew there was a very good chance they could be awakened before 5am (if we were lucky, we would get to "sleep in" until 6am) I'm happy to report that I have learned to live with this ailment.  I mean, who says that you can't do laundry, clean the kitchen walls AND go grocery shopping before going to work in the morning! (Last time I looked the early bird still gets the worm)

You know what they say about people with curly hair...
I don't think any further comments are needed on this paternal trait (I'm just grateful for my blow dryer and good hair care products that have helped to straighten my wayward ways :)

Love for family
I've heard and read stories of people and the awful childhoods they had to endure.  I, on the other hand, had a wonderful childhood. Although I wasn't spoiled (no really, I wasn't :) I don't think I ever wanted for anything.  More important than that, I've always know that my father loved our family. Period.  He's been a wonderful Dad, mentor, friend and example.  I like to think this is part of the reason that I turned out the way I did (only slightly dysfunctional :)  And part of the reason that I am going to miss him so much when he is no longer here.  What if I still have questions for him?  Or need to ask him investing advice?  Talk to him about my next home remodeling project (the ceiling fan I put up still hasn't fall down yet :)  I know that our family will be together again one day.  And I know that I will be OK.  Because of all the things that he has taught me. And shown me. And everything you've done for me and Cynthia and Raymond.  Thank you.  For everything.

PS--And if you are reading this, Dad, and you have a large financial inheritance that you plan to leave to me, I'd like to say thank you in advance for that as well :)  Like I said, you are the Best Dad EVER!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Will work for...FUN

Me and Princess Presto
I don't usually travel a lot for work.  So it was kind of rare that I would have two trips back to back.  I just spent all of last week in Denver and I've been in Boston since Sunday for a big cable show.  I'm definitely ready to be home (two weeks on the road would be tiring to even the most seasoned "road warrior") but I would be lying if I said that I hadn't been having fun.

It kind of got me to thinking about how lucky I am to have a job that I enjoy.  I really consider it to be a fluke that I even work in media.  I didn't grow up wanting to work for a TV station.  Truthfully, I never thought a lot about what I wanted to be when I "grew up." I mean, I started college as a political science major (thank goodness that didn't last :)

But 22 years ago I signed up to volunteer for one of the stations on-air telethons and I've been hooked ever since.  I keep pretty busy (which is good for me and the type of person that I am :) and it is fun.  Really fun.  (It doesn't hurt that I work with a bunch of great people either :)

Laura, Barbara and George
So to celebrate the fact that I am FINALLY going home tomorrow, I thought I would post some pics of me "at work."  Working hard or hardly working?  I'll let you be the judge.
Hanging out at The Cable Show in Boston
For all of my Dexter friends

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The cost of a haircut

The kids and I were out shopping today when I suggested to Kobe that it might be about time that we go to get his hair cut. Truth be known, it was "time" for a hair cut a couple of inches, err..I mean, months ago (the kid must think he's Samson or something 'cause he gets a little freaky anytime we talk about trimming up his curly locks :)

Anyway, Kobe is going to be a good negotiator when he grows up.  Cause he talked me into paying him $15--to get a haircut! Does this make me a bad mom? Originally, it was only going to be $10 but he countered with "$15 and we can go right now..."

Sold!! Five minutes later we were sitting at the local Great Clips :)

I did manage to get back at him by posting these mildly embarassing photos on his Facebook page.

These pictures were taken mid-cut--so no, my kid is not walking around with an 80' haircut (I'm not THAT bad of a mom :)