Friday September 23, 2016

Ah, the life of a high schooler... Up early, up late, always tired, sometimes cranky... and it's only week 3 of the school year!

I tease, but Erin school year is off to a great start. She likes her classes and classmates. She's got a heavy schedule with AP Lit, AP Physics, AP Econ, Honors French and Math Analysis (Pre-calc).

Add to that, student government (affectionately known as Stud Gov), debate team and volleyball... I guess there's a reason she's up at all hours to get everything done.

Erin's JV volleyball team is fun to watch. They are a talented bunch. When your varsity if full of talented players, there's a trickle down effect to JV. Erin gets lots of playing time, which makes the games fun for all of us.


This week, Erin also got to take part in a "Superfan" day.  Each school in the Big 9 Conference got to send a group of student/athletes to meet people from other schools and promote good sportsmanship and school spirit. These students were chosen by coaches to represent Mayo HS.


Next week brings another high school milestone - Homecoming week. There will be dress up days, two home volleyball matches, a coronation pep fest, a parade, the football game and, of course, the dance.

So, the fall days speed by... From where I sit, it all looks fun.

Join us: Brains Together for a Cure Walk/Run - Oct. 1, 2016

A frost warning in northern Minnesota this morning means fall is definitely here. Still some warm, sunny days, but the cold morning air foretells the future.

One fall activity we have taken part in the past 5 years is the Brains Together For a Cure annual walk. The first year we took part, Shannon was with us...


Shannon came to the walk from hockey tryouts and after the walk, we went and watched her play soccer... 3 months later she was gone...

I have to remind myself of those details from time to time. I want to remember her in full stride like she was on that October day. At her soccer game that afternoon, she headed a ball and then looked at all of us on the sidelines and smiled her beautiful, playful smile. The girl with the brain tumor finding humor in the absurdity of her heading a soccer ball! That day was Shannon in a nutshell.

Brains Together for a Cure is a local organization and all money raised funds innovative brain tumor research here in Rochester at Mayo Clinic. 

We will take part again this year, but with a new twist -  I will walk and Dan will run. BTFAC is celebrating 10 years, and they have added a 5K/10K run this year in addition to the 5K walk.

If you are free October 1, come join us. 

We will make a $1000 donation from the Shannon O'Hara Foundation in Shannon's memory, thanks to all of your support.  Hope to see you there.

To register, visit: Brains Together For a Cure





9/11

We never visited New York before 2009, but in our handful of trips there since, we've come to love the city... Dan and I went for the US Open in 2009, then we took the girls on Spring Break 2011 - that was the last trip before the music changed with Shannon's diagnosis...


Since then, we've been back to NYC with Erin for a surprise fall weekend, Erin went there on her 8th grade class trip, and in the summer of 2015, we were there again for a family wedding. Walking the streets of Manhattan, there is a vibe like no other. And last summer, we expanded out to exploring Brooklyn and Queens... so much to see and do and experience.

Erin has interest in going to school in NYC... I hope if that's what she wants, we can make it happen...

September 11, 2001 was a normal day here at the O'Hara household. I was a stay at home mom with two small children - Shannon was 3 and Erin just 5 months old. I kissed Dan goodbye as he headed out the door to travel to Iowa. I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled in to play with the girls while the Today Show played in the background... you know what happened next...

9/11 showed us the evil that's in the world, but also the humanity. At the time, I didn't completely comprehend how this event would change the world, and change our little world as well. Dan worked for Williams Oil at the time, and just 6 weeks after 9/11, he lost his job. That holiday season, we had two small children and no jobs... our first real challenge as a couple...

Yesterday, Dan and I celebrated 22 years of marriage, which is no small feat given the storms we've endured... let's be honest, 22 years of marriage is no small feat regardless!

So, today is a day that we remember what is important: the people we love, the kindness of others, the freedom we have.

"Time flies over us, but leaves it's shadow behind." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

First Day of School 2016

And... just like that, she's a junior...


Emily, her friend since 4th grade, gave Erin a ride to school. When you are a junior in high school, you ride with your friends to school, not your mom. I get it. She need me less and less these days... as it should be...

The first day of school pictures are always so fun to see. Social media has made us voyeurs into other people's lives. In this case, it's a good thing...

I always feel a little melancholy at this time of year. Another school year is another marker of the passing of time. I felt that way even before Shannon got sick and passed away. Now, it's even more poignant as another year she didn't get to experience...

That thing about social media? Facebook has been giving Dan and I some gut shots lately. We were posting a lot of photos 5 years ago... and the Facebook algorithm is making them pop up on our feed. Yesterday's flashback was from 5 years ago, the first day of school 2011.


                         

Shannon's last first day... a not-so-gentle reminder to enjoy what's here right now. I try to remember that each and every day...

So, the 2016-17 school year is underway. Fall is such a crazy busy time for Erin with volleyball, student government planning for homecoming, debate... oh yeah, there might be some homework in there, too... 

I'm ready to support and cajole and do my mom thing to push her along... even if she needs me less and less these days, she still needs me...

Saturday September 3, 2016

Say what you want about cancer, but it sure can bring people together...

Yesterday afternoon, I watched my friend Kula ring the bell, signaling the end of her radiation treatments. Yet another hurdle in her 9 month (so far) battle against breast cancer. Her infusions of Herceptin continue for several more months, and there is reconstruction surgery down the road, but this was a big hurdle to cross...

Dan and I arrived at the Jacobsen building and had a chance to see the treatment room where the proton beam radiation took place for Kula. Some serious flashbacks for me and Dan... I couldn't help but notice the plaster radiation masks lined up on a shelf. Each one symbolizing another person fighting this damn disease...

But  yesterday wasn't about Shannon. As I said, cancer brings people together and Kula's family and friends gathered for happy hour to signal the end of radiation. A room filled with love and gratitude. When someone you love is righting for their life, you realize how small the small things really are... all that matters is love and friendship...

Labor Day Weekend is upon us... summer coming quickly to a close. Volleyball season is already in full swing. Erin's playing libero (defensive specialist) for the JV team this year and is also on the varsity roster. They had two good wins against quality teams to start the season. The best part is, it's a great group of girls who care about each other... as I said, love and friendship...

So, we'll enjoy these last few days before the school year starts... junior year... time moves so quickly sometimes...

Friday August 26, 2016

I am back in the home office today after three days spent at a retreat with all my communications colleagues. This was my first foray into team building/ideas exchange. As you would imagine... some good, some bad.

It was fun to expand beyond the usual handful of people I know and to meet other colleague from other areas. Of course, that brings with it the dreaded small talk...

We did several "ice breakers" where you chose a colleague you didn't know and introduced yourself. Those quick 10 minute encounters usually involved: which branch of communications are you in, what's your job, where do you live (colleagues from around the country were here) and... wait for it... do you have children?

Well, shit... the options are both bad when I get asked that question... I either lie and then I feel bad, or I tell them the truth and then they feel bad...  I found myself telling the truth. 

I don't want to feel bad and I don't want to deny that Shannon is my daughter. So, I would say "I have one daughter who is a junior and Mayo HS and I had another daughter who died from a brain tumor at age 13." I know that's a lot to dump on someone during a 10 minute ice breaker, but that's my truth...

On the flip side of that, I had two colleagues who sought me out and said they followed our journey or read our book and wanted me to know how much it touched them. So, I guess that felt like validation for sharing our story...

Anyway, it's fun for me to be engaged in work and it's fun to have colleagues with whom to collaborate. I guess I officially have a real job...

Erin has been busy with volleyball for the past two weeks. Weight training in the morning and practice in the afternoon. They've had a couple of scrimmages and their season starts tomorrow with their first game. 

So August will draw to a close. Life is ever changing. Erin is ready to be a junior. My parents are moving back to Minnesota. (We don't know exactly where yet, but that's definitely a separate blog post!) Time marches on and we do our best to keep up...

Tuesday August 16, 2016

I am writing from the plane over the plains... Yes, I am on vacation again... This is a short one - two days with my dear friend Teri watching the pros play tennis in Cincinnati. We've done this trip twice before and we planned it long before I got a full time job. So, I'm using a little PTO (how fun is it that I get PTO?!?) and I'm really looking forward to it.

I am blessed with some wonderful girlfriends in my life and Teri has been around a while... I watched her raise her kids and she watched me she raise mine. We've been around to see the  good and bad in each other's lives. She's a friend I can go a year without seeing and we pick up right where we left off.

Dan and Erin are being supportive of be being gone. I think it's a good idea to prove from time to time that they can survive without me!

Erin is plenty busy as volleyball season has begun. Tomorrow is schedule pickup day. How can Erin be a junior? People always told me that time goes so fast once your kids are in high school. Now I believe them...

So, I got my 8 hours of work in today (amazing what you can get done when you start at 5:30am!) and now I'm flying... and listening to music. It's fun to have the headphones on and just be in my own world.

My mix has included the Avett Brothers, Duncan Sheik, A little Depeche Mode and... Fetty Wap... I think Erin might have added that last one to the music library...

So, I am feeling happy today. Dan and I were just talking this weekend about our happiness. I would never have believed we could feel joy and contentment the way we do in this aftermath that is our life. But we are happy a lot of the time...

We had a couple of Shannon moments this week. One came from a parent who had just taken her daughter to college. Her daughter was a friend of Shannon's and the two of them were remembering Shannon as the next stage of life begins...

The second Shannon moment was from a friend of Shannon's who wanted to make a donation to the foundation before he heads off to school. What a kind gesture from a great kid. I'm sure he could have found something to spend the money on. They carry her with them...

So, today I am grateful. Grateful for family and friends. Grateful for the love and kindness of others.

"Sometimes you gotta bleed to know... that you're alive and have a soul" - Tear in my heart by twenty one pilots