Saturday August 12, 2017

I am thrilled to have a Saturday morning of quiet here in the house. This was a back-to-reality week for me after being on vacation for 10 days!

Our time at Lake Hubert was as good as it gets. Perfect weather and friends to share it with... Erin was in heaven and seeing her happy still always makes me happy.

When our week at the O'Hara cabin ended, Dan Erin and Sunny the Wonderdog headed home and I went on to vacation part deux - a family reunion on Madeline Island with my mom's relatives.

Aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed... it was a group of 55 of us! I got to spend a lot of time with my mom reminiscing about her time as a child spent on the island. Fun to hear old stories from her and her siblings. And believe me, some of them have a knack for storytelling!

Now we are home, summer adventures are drawing to a close, and the fall schedule is just around the corner.

Erin starts the high school volleyball season on Monday. Her final season of volleyball, although I could see her playing intramurals in college if time allows.

I admit, I have a little melancholy these days as we think about things being "the last time". High school goes so fast and big life changes for all of us are just around the corner. I promised myself I would enjoy the moments and not worry about them ending. We'll see how successful I am at enjoying senior year and not thinking ahead to what's next.

College.

I've been banned from discussing it this whole week. Last weekend, I came home and brought up that Erin should get started on her to-do list - writing her essay, doing the Common Application, following up with admissions contacts, following up with golf coaches. Needless to say, my suggestion was not well received!

So, I made a promise that I would give her one last week of summer. But come Monday...

Anyone who has been through this process recently - applying to college - knows that it's more stressful now than ever. The cost of attending is so high that the decision carries more weight than ever. And, kids travel far and wide these days to go to school, so there are so many options. How do you narrow it down?

So, starting Monday, she will begin that process. I think writing the essay is daunting. How do you share yourself and tell people who you are? Imagine being Erin. How do you talk about the defining moment of your life, losing your sister when you were just 10? Erin doesn't want pity, but she has to find a way to share her story.

It's exciting and scary and I think the future is so bright for Erin. It's hard for her to see that now, but in time she'll realize the world is her oyster.

So, we'll do our best to enjoy the moments along the way.

"The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln

Shannon's 19th birthday



We are at Shannon's favorite spot, the O'Hara cabin on Lake Hubert, on what would have been her 19th birthday. Morning coffee in my lime green adirondack next to the Shannon rock is the perfect place to reflect on so many memories of her days up here.

The excitement she would have when we'd first arrive. How she was always ready to go jump in the lake, no matter the weather. Hours and hours and hours of swimming and making up silly games in the water. She was a fish.

She and Erin would negotiate who got the bed by the window on the porch. Shannon always came out on top in that negotiation. Trips to our favorite breakfast spot, trips to the grocery store for s'mores fixings and maybe a movie rental. Trips to Rafferty's pizza and the Chocolate Ox for candy. This place is full of Shannon memories.

I know that Shannon wanted us to go on living after she was gone. She told Dan and I that in her last days. "You have to be there for Erin so she can have a good life..."

Erin's life is full of love and laughter. Not just with Dan and me, but with the friends she has made and chooses to surround herself with on a daily basis. Many of those people are here with us this weekend. Erin's two best pals, Lexie and Liz, plus their families and another friend Marcus have joined us. 13 people here to celebrate Shannon's birthday with us. She'd love that.


Shannon has blessed us with so much. She continues to impact our lives in ways we are still figuring out. She changed us for the better in so many ways. Our relationships are deeper and our lives are full of meaning. We live with the hole in our hearts always. The pain never goes away. It ebbs and flows and sometimes hits us when we least expect it. It's ok to feel it, though. She deserves to be remembered.

Happy birthday, Shannon.

MGG Swings for Shannon raises $17,280

My oh my, what a day we had on Monday. The weather was beautiful, the people were happy and we had a great event.

To see the diverse group of people willing to give their time and money to support the foundation fills my soul. We had teachers, SOF board members, tennis friends, former teammates of Shannon, current teammates of Erin, scholarship winners... so many friendly faces.





If you'd like to see more photos, you can find your foursome on the Shannon O'Hara Foundation website.

It's always a big build up the the event and I'm always a bit relieved when it's over. But, each and every year I'm proud of what we can accomplish. Shannon continues to make a difference. 

Time for a little break now. One more week of work and then some cabin time. I'm counting the days...

Monday July 17, 2017 - MGG Swings for Shannon

Today is the day - our summer fundraiser. We have 140 golfers signed up and the weather looks beautiful. Shannon is taking care of us!

The mix of golfers is wonderful: family, SOF board members, former teachers of Shannon and Erin, former MGG golfers, my tennis friends and even one of our scholarship winners. The list goes on and on...

Erin is not with us this year. She is off at a team camp with her Mayo Volleyball team for the next four days. While she is sad to be missing the MGG tournaments, she had to make a choice and Dan and I support her 100%. She gets to lead her own life. This is just the beginning...

So, the course is ready, the prizes are all prepped, I've got my lime green shirt and we're ready to go.

Sharing her story, raising money for the foundation, being together in fellowship all still feels right. We carry on in your memory, Shannon.

June 29... drumroll... my birthday!

The title of this post is intended to be sarcastic. For those of you who know me, bringing attention to my birthday is not my usual M.O.

But, today I have a slow day and time to write and think and feel, so blogging it where I find myself. I am home alone until this afternoon. I'm streaming Jack Johnson radio and enjoying the sounds of the songbirds in the trees. Lovely.

In the age of social media, people know when it's your birthday and messages have steadily been coming in. It is nice to feel seen and loved. My mom, techie that she is, even posted a picture of me as a toddler to Facebook! Do I look like Shannon or Erin? Maybe a little bit of both.


In my mind, my birthday signals the beginning of the 4th of July holiday. Someone please tell me that the 4th of July is not the middle of the summer. I feel like we're just getting started.

Dan will arrive home tonight and make dinner for us and our friends. It looks to be a beautiful day for sitting and chatting.

Last weekend, Erin and I had a girls trip to Pelican Lake with the senior squad/mom squad. There are six girls who are incoming seniors on this year's volleyball team and us moms like to think of ourselves as a team, too.  While the weather didn't exactly cooperate, we had a great time and the girls managed to get in the lake a few times. (There may have been a late night swim where clothing was optional).


This crew has been with Erin, and me, since Shannon passed away. That first spring after Shannon passed, this group of girls convinced Erin to give volleyball a try. She was brutal that first year and couldn't get a serve over the net, but being surrounded by this group helped her heal.

Year by year, Erin got better and now, as a senior, she believes she can play a regular role on the varsity volleyball team. Volleyball has been a big positive in our life after Shannon.

Wait... I was talking about me and my birthday! Just kidding. Any mom would rather talk about her kids as an extension of themselves. It's what we do.

We came home from Pelican on Monday, Erin played in a golf tournament Tues. (just to brag a little, she won her age division with a career best 74 :), worked yesterday and today, and then tomorrow she heads off the the Girls Junior National Volleyball Tournament in Minneapolis with her club team. This weekend will bring an end to the 8 month club season. Uff da! Lots of reps for Erin, which was her goal, but she's ready to be done with club ball and focus on Mayo VB.

Erin and I spent some time last week organizing college thoughts. Erin is exploring the option of college golf, so we made a list of schools that might offer the degree she wants and a chance to play. We'll see where it goes. It's an exciting/scary/nerve wracking time...

Erin leaving the nest has always just been a concept, but now I feel like the days are numbered. Her friends who graduated from high school this year have been doing their orientation days and creating their schedules for their fall semester at college. A year from now, that will be Erin. I'm not ready yet. I hope I can get there.

Erin and I have a special bond. Our circumstances mean it's often just the two of us. She left me a handwritten note on my desk today. I'm going to keep it forever.

Happy Birthday Mom

I know birthdays aren't a big deal for you, but just know this crappy card doesn't do you justice.

I can't thank you enough for everything you do for me. You live a double life as my best friend, but also my mom and role model as well. I aspire to be half the woman you are someday. You somehow manage to be kind and compassionate as well as funny and kick-ass.

I love you because you're an amazing woman and person, and I'll never be able to thank the world enough for giving me you as my mom.

I hope your 48th is one of the best.

Love, E

Friday June 16, 2017

We now have three cars and three people working in this house, so it's a bit like Grand Central Station!

It's only going to get worse when Erin starts her summer volleyball workouts with her Mayo teammates next week. After playing on separate teams this spring, it's time to get the band back together.

Erin has started her first ever job, work for the City of Rochester Park and Rec department as an instructor with the First Tee program. She's teaching golf and life lessons to kids every day from 7am to 2pm. So far, five days in, she loves it.

She had to join the real world by filling out a W-2, agreeing to a background check, all the fun stuff that goes along with being hired. Good life lessons for her.

Luckily the job is flexible enough to fit her busy schedule. She gave them the days she could work, and they said OK. This was one week where she was available for all five days, so nothing like jumping right in.

Erin came home and shared a story yesterday. She had this pair of sisters in her group and Erin thinks the younger one has the chance to be better than the older sister. Anyway, the younger one was confessing to Erin that she never beats her sister at anything and that the big sister is always better. Erin told the little girl "My big sister is better than me at most things. But not at golf." The little girl's eyes lit up and said "Really? How much older is your sister?" "Two years, same as your sister is to you." The little girl was happy and said maybe golf will be my thing.

Erin teared up as she told me. It was the first time in a long time that I heard Erin sharing any Shannon stories with someone who doesn't already know. Erin's life since Shannon passed has been filled with people who know her story and nothing needs to be said.

But, as Erin gets closer to leaving the nest, she will need to figure out how to include her sister in who she is, how to share and when. Writing a college application essay will happen soon, and Shannon is maybe on Erin's mind. It's quite a story for Erin to tell. It's part of who she is today.

Yesterday, a Shannon and Erin story was enough to make a little girl's day. Perfect.

Another exchange yesterday was a little more light hearted. Erin has a 30 minute lunch break and she send me and Dan a photo of her and the other instructors sitting around a computer monitor, watching the US Open golf tournament during their break. Dan, who is in FL at a sales team retreat, quickly responded with a picture of his laptop with the US Open streaming on it. Second later, I sent them a photo of my "office" - my laptop on the kitchen counter with the kitchen TV tuned to the tournament!

Father's day weekend is here. This will come as no surprise, but Dan wants to play golf with me and Erin and then watch the final round of the US Open from the comfort of our family room. Works for me...

Monday June 5, 2017

Today was a day filled with all the things that make parenting the toughest job in the world. Wanting what's best for your kids, wanting them to achieve their goals, wanting them to reap the reward of their hard work.

Erin had an amazing junior golf season, becoming her team's number one golfer, making all conference for the second year in a row and breaking 80 for the first time with a career best 77 at the conference tournament.

The section tournament is a two day event played on a difficult course in Cannon Falls. One team and 5 individuals qualify for state. Erin was 7th after the first day, putting herself in a position for a shot at state. When all was said and done, she missed a trip to the state tournament by one stroke. One damn stroke.

Erin is only a junior and will have a chance again next year, but that's not a discussion for today...

Now, Erin has felt pain worse than losing out on a state tournament bid. But she should be allowed to just hurt like any kid would in this situation. Not everything should have to be viewed through the lens of losing Shannon.

Knowing how much she would hurt made Dan and I hurt. Erin kept it together as well as could be expected. In the comfort of our home, she let it go... the disappointment is a weight she will carry for a while, I'm sure.

But, today was also a day to celebrate my kid. Erin tried the best she could. She kept fighting even when it wasn't going exactly as planned. She rooted for her playing partner from Winona, who is a friend. She birdied the last hole to give herself a chance. She was happy for her teammate who made it. She was happy for her senior teammate who shot a personal record today. She thanked Papa Harkins for coming to watch. She hugged her coach through the tears and thanked him, too.

At 16, you don't feel that being a good person is more important than going to state. That it will serve you well in life. At 48 (almost) I have that longer view perspective. It doesn't make today less painful,   really, but it does give me hope that there are bigger and better things ahead for Miss E...

"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you" - Mary Tyler Moore