Saturday September 30, 2017

I've started and stopped writing a post here over the past week. I just haven't been able to articulate my feelings. But here goes...

Life is good and amazing and painful all at the same time. We are all along for the ride with Erin. Senior year is going as planned - she likes her classes, homecoming was a blast, the volleyball team is really having fun together. The next step in college applications and planning a few more college visits. It's all really good stuff.

I knew that I'd feel anxious and some sadness about watching Erin go through things for the last time, anticipating that next year at this time, she'll be off on her own and our house will be a little more empty.

What I didn't anticipate is that watching Erin progress through senior year would bring up so many feelings about Shannon. A sneak peek at Erin's senior picture this week was a trigger to wondering what would Shannon have looked like? I've been missing her so acutely lately.

I spent some time the other day updating our foundation website (shameless plug: I added this year's scholarship application and added some upcoming hockey days where the SOF will be there.  While I was there, I decided to watch the YouTube video of Shannon. I don't remember the last time I watched it. Damn, she was so little.

I hadn't really articulated to Dan these feelings I've been having, experiencing the loss of Shannon's future as I watch Erin. Dan came home from his week on the road in Michigan and told me he had a customer ask him about the lime green bracelet he was wearing. Dan told him about losing Shannon and the foundation we started and since he was in the middle of showing the customer the online tools he could use, Dan toggled over to the foundation website and played the Shannon video for his customer. On the same day I watched it, Dan watched, too.

I don't pretend to understand how the universe works, but Dan and I were meant to start a dialogue about Shannon this week.

I don't want to take anything away from Erin's senior year or her experience. But I have to acknowledge for myself that it brings up emotions about Shannon. And, it's a reminder that we will experience the loss of Shannon over and over and over in our lives as we watch Erin grow.

For my job, I do a lot of work with podcasts, and that's led me to listening to more and more podcasts when I'm working or walking or driving. I started listening to a new podcast last week - "Terrible, Thanks for Asking". Yes, that's the title. A little dark humor answer to the common question "How are you?"

The host, Nora McInerny, lost her husband, Aaron, to brain cancer. She wrote a blog during the journey and a book after he was gone. Sound familiar? She dives into what grief is, how you can appear normal to the outside world, how you go on and how some days, it's all just too much.

Here's a passage on how she thinks about her grief:

I didn't totally hate it, and I still don't. It's like a bruise I get to push, a pain that reminds me that what I had and what I lost is real. It's the price I paid for loving deeply and for letting myself to be loved. It's the evidence that Aaron was here and that he's really gone.

There's a part of me that's mad to feel like I'm actively grieving again, 6 years later. But, maybe the universe is reminding me that grief is a part of love. It's a way of keeping Shannon in my life. I can be busy and happy and enjoying life and still feel the loss. Happiness and grief aren't mutually exclusive.

So, on we go with this journey called life.


Next weekend is the Brains Together for a Cure walk. While we aren't actively participating this year, it's a wonderful organization and I hope, if you have the time, you will support them. For more information, visit:

Sunday September 17, 2017

The first two weeks of senior year have been a success for Miss E. She is liking her classes and is fully engaged in high school experience. Dan and I see her briefly most days... when she needs a shower or a meal.

There are student government and honor society meetings, there are boys and girls soccer games to attend, and the first home football game happened on Friday. That involved tailgating and face paint and hoarse voices the next morning.

This week is Homecoming which means dress up days, Friday pep fest, parade and football, and then the dinner and the dance on Saturday. Erin is going with her friend Pujan. Their friend group is made up of fun, smart kids, so it should be a great night.

After a volleyball fundraiser breakfast yesterday. Erin came home to shower... and to ask for money... and then headed to the U of M to visit her friend, Liz. Liz has made the transition to college kid, but that doesn't mean that she and Erin aren't still connected. Technology has changed the "going away to college" experience. I think Liz and Erin talk every day!

So, Erin drove her herself to the Twin Cities for the first time, went to the Gopher football game and slept in the dorm with Lizzy last night. Erin is living life to the fullest. Dan and I are filled with joy watching her do her thing.

I find myself in a strange place, trying to savor every moment but ruminating about what's ahead. Senior year is already going fast. College applications will happen in the next 6 weeks and then, the waiting game and big decisions are ahead.

It's the natural order of things. But, I am a rookie at this, a jumble of emotions and worries and excitement. One day at a time, right? Still, after all these years of practice, that's not my strong suit.

But, mostly I feel joy seeing Erin grow. She's navigated a childhood no one would want. She not only survived, but she is thriving. I know I will be sad and lonely when she's off at school. But, it will be an accomplishment to celebrate, too. Somewhere, under my anxieties and worries about what's ahead, I know that to be true.

"Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last first day of school

The beginning of the end. Erin began her senior year and these are the obligatory first day of school photos. But, if you only knew what I had to go through to get these...

Yesterday, Erin and I did some last minute school shopping and secured the all important homecoming dress. (Homecoming date is still TBD :) So, we spent our labor day heading off to the MOA.

A successful trip was only dampened by the news when we arrived home that Dan had fallen off the garage roof. While cleaning out the gutters, with a leaf blower backpack on, the ladder slipped and he was left hanging from the garage gutter momentarily before falling onto his back on our patio.

When we arrived home, he was sitting in a chair in the backyard. He refused to go to the emergency room last night. He just took Advil and went to bed. This morning, it was evident that he needed more than Advil.

So, while Erin was getting ready for school, I was taking Dan to the doctor. In typical Rochester fashion, the doctor was someone with whom we were acquainted. I taught his 3 kids tennis. We know his wife. The doctor immediately smiled and shook his head. He told Dan, "Sometimes I'm a dumb guy, too." He said Dan must have been suffering from "testosterone poisoning". Ha! I'm going to have to remember that one.

Luckily, we now have our Mayo Clinic primary care doctor just a mile away at the SE Clinic. As we were visit with the doctor, Erin texted that she was ready and leaving for school. I told her WAIT! So, I explained to the doc hat I had to run home and take a first day of school pic. And that's exactly what I did.

Now, this either makes me a bad wife, or a good mom.

I snapped my photos, said goodbye to Erin and was back to Dan before he was done with the examination. X-rays were negative and tests for kidney function were normal. So no lacerated kidneys and no broken bones. The pain can be managed with a short course of narcotics. He should be on the mend in a few days. (Unfortunately, there is no cure for testosterone poisoning...) As I pushed him in the wheelchair, I told him it was about 25 years too early for this!

On a brighter note, Erin came home after volleyball practice, ate dinner, changed clothes and she's off to the boys soccer game. She said her teachers are great, she's got friends in her classes and it's going to be a good year. That's what a mom likes to hear.

The beginning of the end of high school is off to a good start. 

Saturday August 26, 2017

The high school volleyball season kicks off today with the Mayo Spartans taking on SW MN Christian this afternoon.

Volleyball today, senior pictures on Monday and school starts the day after Labor Day. Erin's senior year schedule is set with all the classes she needs to graduate. It's the beginning of the end.

But, this is the way it's suppose to be. Kids are suppose to grow up, move out, move on. It's the natural order of things and I'm going to embrace it knowing that not every kid gets this chance.

As I've said here before, volleyball has only been a part of our after... after Shannon. This group of senior girls supported Erin that first spring that she didn't have a sister, and they convinced her to come and try a new sport. Thank goodness for these girls and their families.

And so it begins. Yes, it's the beginning of the end. But this end leads to yet another beginning. Erin's ready and that means Dan and I are ready, too.

I'm a huge podcast listener, but lately, they all sound the same. People trying to find meaning and reason for the direction our country is headed. It's sad and scary and I hate that we are becoming used to it. Denigrating others is becoming status quo. The hateful noise makes me want to focus all that much more on my little, personal world.

So, I skipped the podcasts this week and turned back to music. My old standards including Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Mumford and Sons brought me comfort.

One song in particular, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise by the Avett Brothers seemed particularly appropriate.

There's a darkness upon me that's flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what's wrong and what's right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I'm frightened by those that don't see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone, you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

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.


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...