Road trip - August 2020

2020 is a year that requires patience, resiliency and an ability to live in the moment and adjust as necessary. I'm good at two of those things... COVID-19 has meant that long term planning is a foolish proposition. What started in March with Erin's campus shutting down has carried through the summer and on into August.

We spent A LOT of time together, the three of us, as Dan wasn't traveling and I was furloughed starting June 1. Thankfully, my 12 week furlough was reduced to 6 and I returned to work July 13. It is good to be back.  

Dan and I were grateful for the bonus time with Erin, and Willow Lane was a safe place to be during the early, unsettling days of the pandemic. Erin made the most of being stuck back in Rochester, taking a bunch of credits spring and summer quarters, and working part time at the golf course for some spending money. 

While summer classes are continuing online, Erin was ready to return to Philadelphia. Her apartment had been paid through August, and she had per diem work opportunities that weren't happening in Rochester.  Drexel is attempting a hybrid teaching model in the fall... but as mentioned before, this will most likely require patience and adjustment depending on how COVID-19 plays out.

But, "home" for Erin now is Philly, and whether classes are on line or in person, she was ready to go. So, we packed up the RAV-4 and she and I headed across the midwest. (Grateful that my bosses were understanding of my previously made plans and let me take PTO for our road trip.)

This little taste of travel reminds me that I love to see new places and we enjoyed checking out gritty, industrial Pittsburgh and driving through the beauty of the Allegheny Plateau and Cumberland Valley of western and central Pennsylvania.

So now Erin is back in her adopted city. She has her car, her apartment, her friends. She'll be a junior in college come September. The world is her oyster. The pandemic may have slowed her down, but it won't stop her. Go get 'em, sweetie.

June 16, 2020

We have made our yearly trek to Lake Hubert. It's the place of so many childhood memories for Dan and Erin, and I love the ritual of returning here each year. Coffee by the Shannon rock each morning is the best way to start the day.

It has been such an unsettled time in our world that I've had trouble putting and thoughts down here on this blog. A pandemic is ongoing, but our attention turned to issues of racism and social justice and I've been feeling a bit helpless about how to make any sort of difference in this world.

We have all been listening and reading and processing as we try to be better humans. I am encouraged by Erin's generation and their attitudes towards love and acceptance of all people. Thank goodness the children are our future.

Erin is enjoying some much needed rest up here at the cabin. She completed her spring quarter of school - 20 credits worth - and she kicked ass, if I do say so myself! She's on her two week break before summer quarter begins. Summer quarter will be online as well, and then classes will return to campus in the fall in one form or another. Drexel, like many universities, is figuring out how to keep kids safe and healthy by utilizing their classroom spaces effectively. Erin will be living just off campus starting in September, in a house with 4 friends. At least she won't be in a huge communal living situation as she has been these first two years.

Erin is eager to get back to Philly, so she and I will road trip east sometime in July and move her back into her apartment. She will have a chance to work and earn some money in August and September while finishing summer quarter classes. It has been great to have her home for these four months, but it is not a good permanent solution. She wants her independence, and I can't blame her.

Since I am furloughed from work, I've had lots of time on my hands to stick my nose into Erin's business. This is week 3 of my 12 week furlough, and so far, I'm surviving. It has been a welcome change of scenery, leaving Rochester for the lake.

I'm taking a summer grad school course, which has been a lot of work, so that's helping to fill my time. Once Erin goes back to Philadelphia, I imagine those last few weeks of furlough might feel like an eternity.

I have to remind myself not to worry so much about what is ahead, and just enjoy what's here now.

And what's here and now is pretty great. I'm with my people in a peaceful place. The pandemic and strife are still very real, but they can take a backseat for a little while...

May 2, 2020

It is a glorious spring day in MN, which always reminds us why we live here. The next 5 months or so bring the kind of weather that allows for golfing, tennis, trips to the cabin... this will be a different kind of summer.

Since I last wrote, there has been a big development on the work front for me. Due to the lost revenue  caused by the COVID-19 shut down, Mayo Clinic has had to cut back on costs, including salaries. Temporary furloughs were announced for many teams and departments, including mine. I will begin a 12 week furlough on June 1. Many of my colleagues start their furloughs Monday, so it will be a different kind of job the next month until my furlough begins.

It has been such an unsettling time. Our team was once 20 people, then reduced to 13 when supplementals were let go in March. Now with furloughs, there will be 5 of us working on Monday, and just 3 of us starting May 18. We're really just in "keep the lights on" mode as we try to make it through the summer and, hopefully, return to full staffing in September.

It is hard to reconcile because we have been doing great, important work sharing information with the public about COVID-19. We have more viewers and listeners than ever to our news network site and our podcasts. But, reducing staffing is the fastest way to recoup lost revenue, so it must be done. It has been hard to deal with the emotions and support each other when we're all in our separate homes working remotely. We all, of course, can't imagine how the work can be done without us, but it can, and it's a good reminder that we aren't our jobs.

So, a lesson in resiliency for me and my co-workers as we each take our turn stepping away.

On the bright side, I have one more month to work and plan programming for the summer that can hopefully sustain us and keep our radio show and podcast alive. We'll see. I know things might look very different by the time I return in late August.

If you live in MN and you have to take a forced 12 week vacation, June, July and August are the months to do it. I am hopeful that our state will be more open for business come June and we can make our annual trek to Lake Hubert the first part of June when Erin has a break between quarters.

Erin is halfway through with this first quarter of remote learning. She's surviving the heavy credit load and already planning for the next quarter, which, unfortunately, will also be taught online. Philadelphia and Drexel are not quite ready to bring students back to campus for the summer quarter, but are making plans for fall quarter to be back to some form of normal, in person instruction.

Erin will stay with us through June, but once it's safe to return and campus opens back up, she's ready to return to her apartment, her friends, her life in Philly. We'll see if that can happen come July. She loves us and all, but Rochester is not where she wants to be!

We're still grateful that we're healthy and we've gotten this bonus time together. Dan and I laughed this week, reminiscing about sending Erin back to school after last winter break. I was weepy and sad because "she probably won't ever live with us again". Whoops... She's been here 6 weeks now with another 6 to go! It's been a lot of togetherness and we're all ready for something a little different, but we've made the most of getting to be a trio again for an extended time.

I'm hoping to fill my summer with golf, tennis, family and friends when the physical distancing restrictions relax. I can't wait.

April 10, 2020 - Turning (COVID) 19

Today is Erin's nineteenth birthday. We've been joking that she's turning COVID-19 or quaran-nine- teen. This is not exactly how she planned to spend her birthday as we find ourselves in the midst of dozens and dozens of days together as we try to do our part to flatten the coronavirus curve.

We will venture out today to get supplies to make a pasta dinner and pick up her favorite cookie cake. That will have to suffice as a celebration for this year. At least we get to be together.

Erin decided to make the most of her social distancing time by taking a full credit load of 20 credits this quarter. Drexel's distance learning started this past Monday and the quarter system means it's a 10 week sprint until this term ends and the next one begins. Erin's got a color coded calendar to help her keep track of her six classes and stay on top of the deadlines. We all hope this online learning is only necessary for one quarter, so we're crossing our fingers that she can return to Philly this summer.

We are all healthy and and doing our best to give each other space as we all try to live and work under one roof constantly. It's the first time in 20 years that Dan spent a month at home without any travel. 

My work continues to keep me busy and engaged as we tell stories and share information about the pandemic with the public. Talking with infectious disease specialists about the virus is fascinating. Dan and Erin might be getting sick of my daily reports on what I learned about coronaviruses! They are still humoring me... for now...

The happiest member of the household? That would be Gus, who gets multiple walks a day and always and find someone available to scratch his ears and rub his belly.

So tonight, we will celebrate Erin. We're proud of who she is. We're lucky she's ours. 

March 21, 2020

The world has turned upside down since I last wrote. A global pandemic has reached us, and we're all in uncharted territory. The coronavirus is changing everything for now - the way we work, the way we go to school, the way we interact with one another.

The logistics for our family included Dan's company suspending all travel, so he's "meeting" with customers via phone these days. He was already a home office guy, so has the tools here to do what he needs.

For me, work is busier than ever. Working in communications for the #1 hospital in the world during a global pandemic is some job security, I tell you! We went from producing a weekly radio program and podcast to producing a daily COVID-19 coronavirus podcast in the last 10 days. I am so grateful to get to work with experts in infectious diseases and other specialty areas to get the word out about what we know, what we should do, and what lies ahead. Shameless plug here - you should subscribe to Mayo Clinic Q&A on your favorite podcast provider to stay up to date:

Erin is the one with the biggest disruption of life due to social distancing. College is the opposite of social distancing! Erin came back to Rochester this past Monday, finished up winter quarter finals this week online, and now has an extended two week spring break. Starting April 6, Drexel's 10 week spring quarter will be taught completely online.

Drexel is unique in that it's a quarter system and sophomores like Erin go to school all four quarters. So, the hope is, Erin will be back in Philly when summer quarter starts mid-June. It was hard to pack up and come home and leave your friends and activities behind in the middle of you college experience. We're glad to have her home with us, but we know it's not where she's supposed to be.

For us, we will weather this storm. Yes, it is a disruption to life and yes, it may have long term consequences for industry, education, and health care. Things that affect us all. But, in the grand scheme of things, we are lucky.

We've been talking about those who are losing out on things they had planned - seniors in high school and college who might not get to have a graduation. Athletes who don't get to compete. Family and friends who had trips planned or were studying abroad. This is the year many of Shannon's friends will graduate from college and head out into the real world to try and start their careers. I feel for them in these uncertain economic times.

If you know me and Dan, you know we pass much of our time watching sports. With no golf, tennis, basketball, hockey or baseball on TV, we are a bit lost. Dan's been reading. I've been too busy at work  and also continuing my master's classes to need much leisure activity. We have been binge watching Better Call Saul and, in a fiction meets real world moment, we watched Contagion. So prescient.

We have jobs that continue, we have a home from which to work and school remotely. We can pay our bills. Gus and Sylvie are glad to have the company. They think sheltering at home is a great idea. We have it better than most.

These are difficult times, no doubt. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your family. Sending love and peace to you all.

3 Generations take NYC

I am back in Rochester after a wonderful trip to Philadelphia and NYC. My mom and I did a planes, trains and automobiles adventure. It was our first time traveling together without baggage... I mean, husbands or children... :)

I had planned a "Galentine's" adventure that included some time at Drexel with Erin and her roommates, an overnight with mom's brother Brian and wife Julie in Buck's County, PA, and then an Amtrak ride to NYC for sightseeing, and, a chance to see the musical, Hamilton, on Broadway.

Despite all the hype and anticipation - Hamilton exceeded my expectations. I did my best not to sing along with every word. If you ever get the chance, go see it.

We had two days to enjoy NYC. Erin and I introduced Grandma to Uber and subway travel around Manhattan. We also walked 7 miles one day and 8 miles the next, checking out Central Park, shopping on 5th avenue, and enjoying an authentic Italian dinner in Little Italy. At 74, Grandma Gwen was more than up to the challenge. I'm so grateful for her good health and adventurous spirit.

The trip came at a great time for Erin. She's in the midst of a tough quarter of classes and a gray, winter season. A weekend away with two of her biggest fans was good for the soul. We laughed a lot and talked about life and dreams and goals, and reminded her that she doesn't have to have the world figured out at age 18. (She's still only 18!) She's still loving Drexel and has a great group of friends. I was glad to get to drop into her world for a first hand look.

I came out of the weekend reminded of the importance of the mother-daughter relationship. I am lucky to get a good draw on both sides of that equation. Being with my own mother reminds me that once a mother, always a mother. She still worries about me, in the same way I worry about Erin. We want to make the stresses and the hurts soften. We want to celebrate the successes and shout the accomplishments from the rooftop. 

One of the best things we can do for our daughters is lead by example. I do my best. I know my mom does, too.

"Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them." 

Shannon Cup and Scholarship Night

January has come to a close... it's always one of the best and worst months of the year for us. We start off with the holiday hangover and the anniversary of Shannon's death, which always coincides with sending Erin back to school each year. That's a double whammy for this mom.

But, the month gets busy with our hockey fundraisers and the Shannon Cup, and it culminates in our annual scholarship night.

The Shannon Cup was a huge success once again. We had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with youth girl's teams from Farmington, MN, Des Moines, IA, Appleton, WI and many places in between. All in all, 24 teams featuring 300 girls came to Graham Arena and the majority of them visited our merchandise table and left with a Shannon O'Hara Foundation hoodie, hat, or t-shirt.

We love getting to meet these girls and share Shannon's story. We tell them about her love of hockey, but more importantly, about her love of team and friends. We try and spread a message of kindness. It's our small attempt to make a difference and make the world a better place.

The Rochester teams have embraced the Shannon Cup as their own, doing fundraising for the foundation. Two teams in particular this year, raised money through events and raffles.

The 12B Black girl's team presented us a check for $1,478. They were so proud to donate.

The 15A team, with girls who were playing in their last Shannon Cup before making the move to HS hockey, raised $4,001!

Mixed in amongst the Shannon Cup were two chances for the high school girls teams to support the foundation as well. The Lourdes girls held a Shannon night and donated three separate checks. Here are the words they shared:

Our first check represents the efforts of kids who are the same age as Shannon was during her playing days. During every home game, we have parents who purchase pucks and look for young kids to Chuck a Puck for Shannon. $110 represents their winning so far this year.

Our second check is a token of thanks from parents whose older daughters had the privilege of playing hockey with Shannon. The experience their daughter gained by being able to follow Shannon's journey has provided them with a sense of courage and appreciation that has been invaluable in their lives. This check is for $500.

Our third check is from the Lourdes High School Girls Hockey Family. It is an acknowledgment of how vital the Shannon O'Hara Foundation is not only for girl's hockey in Rochester but as an example to the entire hockey community of the difference one person can make in helping others. This check is for $999.99.

The number 9 represented in such a meaningful way.

The three public schools also did their part to support the SOF. Not only did the Mayo and Century girls teams volunteer all weekend at the merchandise table, Century, Mayo and John Marshall held their own Shannon night, coming together to donate $1,675.

The reason for all this fundraising? To give back. To make a difference in Shannon's memory and help local kids fund their education. Scholarship night is the chance to say thank you to the community and to recognize a few local kids for their efforts.

This year, 4 students were awarded $2,500 each toward their post-secondary education. Corrin Hanson (Lourdes), Megan Andrist (Century), Max Cothern (Mayo), and Sam Williams (Century) are the 2020 Shannon O'Hara Memorial Scholarship recipients.

And that's a wrap. We're exhausted but heartened by the events of the last month. We get to spend the month watching kids play hockey and reminiscing about Shannon's favorite times at the rink. In a world that's sometimes hard and cold, we are lifted up by the support from others. Acts of kindness always make a difference, so thank you to every person who donated a dollar or bought a t-shirt.

The Shannon O'Hara Foundation is going strong. We couldn't do it without you.