Tuesday September 30, 2014

After a nice quiet weekend at home, it's time to crank up the gerbil wheel again... this week involves working my two jobs, Dan is traveling throughout Minnesota, and Miss Erin has two volleyball games, confirmation, and a debate competition.  Oh yeah, and school.  Family and friends coming to town this week and it sounds like we will have a nice group for the Brains Together For A Cure walk on Saturday.  Cross your fingers for decent weather.

I wonder sometimes about this blog... what is the point of it now, anyway?  Am I just being self serving by continuing to write about my life and my family?  Does anyone really care?  Isn't it time I just moved on?

These questions rattle around in my head a lot lately.  One of the things I liked best about getting a writing job is that I get to write a little bit about something other than myself.  And yet, here I am, continuing to write about my favorite subject... me!

But, we got stopped at church on Sunday by someone who has been touched by our writing.  I guess that's the point, isn't it?  It helps me and if it can help others along the way, then the blog - and the book - have a purpose.  So, onward we go...

I've been thinking about the book again lately, too.  A year ago we were in the middle of a promotional tour, doing events and sharing our story.  Now, it's just out there, available if someone stumbles across it... It's a strange feeling to have this big accomplishment of writing a book, and then it's kind of over.  Maybe I was hoping for more.  Maybe that's why authors don't write just one book.  Maybe there's something more that will come of it some day.  Maybe I should just be content...

I think secretly I long for Shannon's story to be an active, living thing.  It felt that way as we shared the book and shared our story last year.  When we were telling our story to others, Shannon was alive in it.  We could feel her there.  Now, it's mostly memories bouncing around in my head, and that's harder.

But, we will start to actively honor her again this weekend at the Brains Together For A Cure walk.  We will remember her spirit and her desire to make a difference in this world.  Then, before you know it, it will be hockey season and we will be at the rink, sharing our story and saying her name.  It's always good to hear it out loud...

Thursday September 25, 2014

Some days you're the bug and some days you're the windshield... I'm having a windshield kind of week.  Nothing major, just the little things that add up to life getting the best of me from time to time.

The little things will pass, and I keep reminding myself that they are little things.  Why is it so easy to forget that sometimes?  In some ways, reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff is a reminder of the big stuff.  And, if I'm being honest, it's difficult to think about the big stuff in my life.

I have been busy working on some volunteer efforts - organizing the upcoming Mayo Volleyball Invitational, working of stuff for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, and prepping for the upcoming Brains Together For A Cure Walk.  (Shameless plug - come join team Shannon on Oct. 4th if you can.  Wear your Shannon shirt.  Register here.)

I have also been busy propping up Erin, who has had a terrible cold, but refuses to miss any of her activities.  I think she got a double dose of stubbornness from me and Dan.  I think it will serve her well, but sometimes it pisses her mom off!

I have had some time around my house this week as I work on these projects.  It's so easy to just get going and go full speed ahead and feel like life is normal and forget who I am and where I've been.  But it doesn't take much to stop me in my tracks and remind me.  Yesterday, it was a picture of Shannon.  It had fallen over on a shelf, and when I went to set it back up, I got lost in those eyes.  How long has it been?  I had to stop and count the months... 32...

I hate that feeling I get when I think that I almost forgot.  I don't know how to explain it exactly.  Life just goes on and I can go longer periods of time without her being ever present in my mind.  That should be a good thing, right?  But it sure doesn't feel good.  And yet, I don't want to live "in it" each and every moment of each and every day.  It is forever going to be a conflict for me...

I love that life is going on for us, but I hate that it is going so fast.  Erin entering high school has seemed to accelerate things.  I don't like the feeling of getting further away from Shannon.  It is hard to be covering territory now that she never got to discover.  It is harder to stay connected to her when we don't have a reference point for her.  "Remember when Shannon went through this" doesn't work any more.  It's all happening so fast now...

One of the things I love about my new car is having satellite radio.  Yes, I have been jamming with Erin to Hits 1.  We have our own little dance party in the car.  My other go-to stations include Broadway Showtunes, of course, and  80's on 8.  That one is a throw back to my own high school years.  I mean, what's wrong with a little Culture Club and Duran Duran now and then?  I can put myself right back there and remember those days.  Everybody remembers their own high school experience.  I'm still coming to terms with the fact that Shannon didn't get there.

Don't get me wrong, watching Erin grow and thrive and struggle and persevere brings me great joy.  And some sadness.  It's not fair to Erin and frankly, it's not fair to me.  But, that's how it is and we have to just do the best we can.

So, it's been a week.  It will end, and another one will begin.  Always a chance to do better, feel better, cope better.  Always.

"The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it... I would discover that it hadn't washed me away." - Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith

Sunday September 21, 2014

We have survived another week of high school, including the homecoming festivities the last few days.  

All the events of the week culminated with the "big event" - the homecoming dance last night.  Preparation for the dance began around 4pm at our house.  It involved curling irons and make up and tape to make sure the dress stayed on.  Luckily, it also involved friends, as Erin's mother is of no help in the hair and makeup department.


So, the plan was for 6 "couples" - just friends going together - to arrive at our house at 6:30 for group pictures in our beautiful back yard.  Not only did those kids and their parents arrive at 6:30, so did a severe thunderstorm.  Ahh, the best laid plans...

We just had to roll with it and cram everyone into our garage and then down to the basement for some photos.  We did the best we could.



After pictures it was off to dinner - at Noodles & Company.  Very appropriate for a group of freshman who still need their parents to drive them!  Then, on to the dance.  Erin has a great group of friends and it was kind of fun to meet all the parents and get to know each other a bit.  I think the parents were just as nervous as the kids.  Dan and I, of course, were cool as could be... 

Luckily for us, Erin is so comfortable in her own skin.  That's more than Dan or I could say at that age.  She organized the group, included everyone, and even called Noodles & Company to warn them that they were coming.  She's a take charge kind of kid, with a gentle soul.  We think that's pretty cool.

Erin and her friend Liam had a good time together.  They were still talking and laughing when I picked the up from the dance, which they said was really fun.


So, another marker in time comes and goes.  Life experience helps Erin keep things in perspective, no doubt.  It helps her cope and it helps her remember to enjoy each experience she gets to have.  Shannon never made it to Homecoming, but in some ways, she helped her sister get there...  

Wednesday September 17, 2014

Let's just say, I am happy I have a new car because I am spending a lot of time in it!  The high schooler's schedule is keeping us on the run.

Erin has school, volleyball, debate team and confirmation.  We haven't managed to fit piano into the schedule yet, but she wants to do that, too.

That list doesn't include the social agenda:  volunteering, surprise birthday parties, and this week - homecoming.  Friday will bring the homecoming parade and football game, and Saturday, after an all day volleyball tournament, the homecoming dance.  Yes, Erin is going.  With a boy.  As friends.  That's all I'm allowed to say here in the blog...

Seriously, though,  Erin has a great group of friends who are all going to their first high school dance.  Some have dates, some don't.  Erin is playing social director and trying to make sure everyone is included.  It's pretty cool to see.  (As an aside, I never went to homecoming.  In those days, you only went if you had a date.  Nobody asked me.  I was a shy nerd back then.  I think I've almost grown out of it...)

I can't help but wonder if Erin can keep up this pace.  It seems unsustainable to me and Dan.  As she reminds us often, though, we are old.  We had a funny exchange with her in the car last week.  On that particular day, I had taken her to school, then returned to Mayo HS at the end of volleyball practice to bring her dinner so she could stay at school and do homework before debate team practice.  At the end of debate, Dan and I picked her up and took her to a friends surprise 16th birthday party.  She returned home at 10 pm - on a school night! - driven by a friend who has a driver's license.

Dan said to E, "I'm exhausted just trying to keep up with you, I can't imagine you it feels to be you."  Erin looked at us, and with a big smile said, "It's exhilarating!"

Oh, to be young and have the world by the tail...

So, the crazy schedule continues - last night it was a volleyball home game with a big win over rival Owatonna.  Tonight it's volleyball practice and then confirmation.  Tomorrow Erin is off to Austin after school for another volleyball game.   Friday, the homecoming weekend will commence.

I just got to thinking, I haven't mentioned homework once in this post.  I assume Miss E is managing to keep up with her schoolwork, too.  I should probably check with her on that...

Sunday September 14, 2014

I am writing this morning from sunny So Cal.  I could post a bunch of photos - me at Newport Beach, me at Laguna Beach  - but that seems cruel when there are frost warnings at home.  Dan and Erin didn't get to come on this trip, so I don't want to rub it in...

I came to Irvine for my cousin Alli's wedding.  It has been a wonderful chance for me to see my aunts and uncles.  My moms brothers - all 8 of them - were a big part of my life growing up.  Time passes and some things are forgotten, but time together leads to the telling of stories and that helps jog the memory.

My mom and I are both here solo, so it's been a nice little mother/daughter getaway as well.  It's not often that we get time together without others and their needs as a part of the program. (Women, you know what I'm talking about!)  So, we've been soaking up sun and time together.

My uncle J.J., the father of the bride, gave a beautiful toast last night.  He talked about how children change our view of what matters in this world.  He talked about dreams coming true, and, how kids are proof of that.  He was beaming with pride, walking his daughter down the aisle.

Weddings, family, dreams... 

This is just another one of those experiences that won't ever be the same.  Life events are more poignant now.  No way around that fact.  But, I'm still learning how to be in my new life.  It feels like forever without Shannon, and yet, I'm still discovering this new version of myself.  Every life event is a chance to grow, to find my equilibrium.  It feels good to acknowledge that I'm going to miss Shannon forever, and some times it will be brought into sharp relief.  Hanging with my extended family makes me think about my own family.  But, it also feels good to know that I can enjoy these things, too.  The loss of Shannon hasn't destroyed me.  I'm still standing.

But, don't get me wrong, this has been a wonderful weekend for me.  Lots of laughs and lots of connections with people I love.  Weddings, family and dreams are all good things.  And, a couple of trips to the beach didn't hurt either...

20 Years


Today is our wedding anniversary.  20 years ago, this engagement photo announced that Dan and I would join together and be a family.  I wish I could tell those young lovebirds a thing or two about what lay ahead for them.

I could tell them that marriage will be hard.  Nobody knows this when they begin.  I could tell them that they will have to watch each other struggle, and wait for a chance to help.  I could tell them that sometimes they will drive each other crazy.  I could tell them that some lessons are learned the hard way, but that the struggles are worth it.  I could tell them that the birth of children will change them forever.  I could warn them...

But, maybe ignorance is bliss.  Maybe you learn what you're suppose to know when you're suppose to know it.  Those two young people didn't know much, so they jumped right in.  Thank goodness.

The trick is to continue to grow together and not grow apart.  Some of life you just have to figure out along the way.  We're older and wiser now, with a lot more scar tissue.  But, we still love being together.  We laugh.  We laugh a lot.  Even after what we've been through, we manage to find happiness and joy along the way.  We have a special tenderness between us now.  We've earned it.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Dan.  The journey continues...

Thursday September 4, 2014

So, my first two days of high school have gone well... oh, wait, this is not about me... As I was saying, Erin's first two days of high school have gone well.  She is definitely ready for more responsibility and independence.  And I am ready to give it to her.  I think...

I still catch myself wanting to step into places where I am no longer needed.  Erin is very gentle with me when she reminds me to butt out.  Fly birdie, fly...

Miss E likes her teachers and is enjoying the fact that older kids are mixed right into her classes.  It will be a good course load for her with Honors options in 4 of her 6 classes.  Add volleyball games twice a week, practice the other three days and confirmation every other Wednesday and, let's just say, we're going to be busy.

But, busy is good.  It means that we are moving, and hopefully, that means moving forward. Everything in Erin's life from here on out is new to us.  I have really been feeling this, deeply.  I'm doing my best to cherish it for what is, not worry about what will be, and not lament what never was.  We've got a lot of positives in our lives.  I will try to keep my focus on that.

There is so much to be gained if you can live in the present.  I know this, and yet it's a constant struggle for me.  Why?  I don't know.  I still catch myself projecting too far down the road, wondering about the what ifs.  I have to remind myself to just stay here, be present.  This is a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over again.  I can very easily get sucked in to feeling the weight of the past and the fear of the future.

I guess I am recognizing that it's something I've lost along the way - that feeling that I can control things, that preparation will make everything right.  Somehow, I could trick myself into believing that if I just do a really good job of worrying about everything, then everything will turn out ok in the end.  Truth is, I never did have control of what will be.  I was just fooling myself...

So, I take a step back and remind myself to just be present.  Erin is off to day 3 of high school.  That is good.  We will tackle what's right here in front of us, then go to bed and get up tomorrow to do it all again.  One day at a time.  That, my friends, is life.

"Remember then:  there is only one time that is important - now!  It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power." - Leo Tolstoy