Wednesday January 21, 2015

High school finals are in full swing for Erin.  Biology and reading yesterday, history and English today.  She's liking this schedule - show up for a class, leave when you're done, have an open hour here or there where you don't have to report.  My kid who couldn't wait to get to high school now wants the college life... In due time... as many people have told me, high school will be over in the blink of an eye.

The reward is great for Erin when she gets through finals - she is headed off to see her friend Ariana in L.A tomorrow afternoon.  She and Kula are headed for a little semester break in the sun...

Dan is busy grinding it out at sales meetings in the Twin Cities.  The boys who are in from Tennessee think we're crazy for living here in this climate.  Although, apparently they were impressed with Dan's ability to spin donuts in the parking lot.

I am really finally starting to feel like myself again, so I am also taking a mid semester break and going to visit a friend this weekend.  A little Jen time as my family likes to say.  That means it will just be Dan and his pets for a little staycation on Willow Lane.

But, before we head out, there are preparations to be done for next week.  Monday (1/27) we will be speaking at the Amateur Sports Commission banquet and the SOF will be the recipient of the silent auction money.  I've jotted down some notes, but it's been a while since we spoke in a formal setting. Hopefully, it comes back to me.

Once we get through that, it will be time to prep for the second Shannon Cup weekend and also read through the scholarship applications and start narrowing in on our choices for this year.  Choosing scholarship recipients is an honor we take very seriously.  It matters deeply to us.  I think it's the most difficult and most rewarding thing we do.  We want to get it right.

So, busy days are ahead.  But, first things first - a little break from all the foundation work to head out of town and hang out with friends.  No complaints...

Sunday January 18, 2015

Our busy weekend rolls on... Dan and I have been running back and forth between The Shannon Cup at Graham Arena and the National Volleyball Center where Erin is taking part in a tournament of her own, the Frostbite Festival.  Erin played 5 matches yesterday and there are at least two more on tap for this morning.  Uff da...

We had successful day of sales yesterday, raising enough for another scholarship.  It's fun being around the rink again, although, as always, it's bittersweet.

A big thank you to the Century Girls team who volunteered all day yesterday setting up, selling merchandise and then tearing down at the end of the day.

We even have a team here from Canada this year, and Dan had a chance to talk to them before their game vs. The Cannons last night.  Spreading the word about the foundation north of the border as the Titans from Winnipeg are enjoying their Shannon Cup experience.

The 14A and 14B teams will each play for a championship today.  Win or lose, the spirit of Shannon is carrying on...

Tuesday January 13, 2015

OK, cat people... how long does this kitten stage last?  Is it possible that Sylvie has reached the terrible twos?

She currently likes to bite our fingers, play in the houseplants and chew on Sunny's leg.  We had to move our couch back against the wall so she couldn't use it as a jungle gym.  Those claws and leather aren't a good match.  Oh, and when she's hungry, all things must wait until she is fed.  She has an affinity for popcorn, and feels free to help herself to some right out of the bowl.  We sometimes think she looks possessed...

This, too shall pass... right?

Now, when she wants to snuggle on your chest and sleep, that's not so bad...

Other than the kitty from hell, this week has been more routine.  Erin has a whole five day week and Dan is headed out of town this morning.  Only really good sales guys drive to Duluth when it's -19 below.

Me, I am in the midst of organizing our Shannon scholarship applications.  This is one of my favorite parts of running the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  Reading the essays and letters or recommendation for these young people is truly an honor.  It's the best way I know to pay it forward, to do something positive out of our tragedy.

Funding brain tumor research is important to us, too, but realistically, a few thousands dollars here or there is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to research.  But, $2000 for a kid to use towards his or her college education?  That makes a dent.

So, over the next few weeks we will be reviewing these applications and then meeting as a board to choose our winners.  Scholarship night this year is February 14th at the Century vs. Mayo boys hockey game.  Start planning now to bring your sweetheart to the rink for Valentine's Day...

But, we've got some ground to cover before then, starting with a Shannon Cup tournament this weekend.  The 14A & 14B teams kick it off with games on Friday night.  While it's still difficult to watch Shannon's teammates out there playing, it's a connection to the thing she loved.

I think life will always be like this now.  Time marches on, yet we want to stay connected.  Painful as it is at times, it's the path we've chosen for ourselves in the after.  Moving forward, thinking back...

Thursday January 8, 2015

Our first week back to the "normal" routine has been anything but... yesterday, the frigid temps, -45 degree windchill, closed schools for the day.  This is the second year in a row that a school cancellation has fallen around the anniversary of Shannon's passing.  Maybe she's up there, sending a little shout out to her little sister and all her peeps down here...

We survived January 6th as we will have to do every year.  I can't explain why this one was harder than the last.  Maybe we spent too much emotional capital with all the goings on in December and we were just tapped out.

We made it through with the help and love and support of our friends and family.  It is a gift from Shannon that we have this support network.  The way she lived and the way she died helped people rally around us, and they continue to do so.  While I don't wish tragedy on anyone, I do wish everyone could feel loved and supported the way we do.

Erin said there were a lot of Shannon shirts walking around Mayo High School that day.  She was one of them, wearing her SOF sweatshirt to school that day.  My heart aches for Erin and her loss, but it also feels much gratitude for the way she carries herself.

After some downtime in December, Erin's schedule is ramping up again.  She's got club volleyball practices, weightlifting for volleyball, and an off season golf program, too.  Throw in piano and confirmation and she should stay plenty busy over these next few months.

Now we head into our busiest fundraising month of the year.  Our first Shannon Cup tournament is just 8 days away.  Our sweatshirt supply had to be replenished, and a new tournament t-shirt is on the way next week.  We will be at Graham Arena Friday night and Saturday (1/16 & 1/17) as we watch the U14 teams play.  The last of Shannon's teammates still playing at the youth level will be in action. The U14B have kept the name Cannons, and they are still hanging up Shannon's #9 jersey as part of their game day routine.

And so it begins...

It's hard for me to not be hauling and lifting boxes, but I am continuing to try and recover from my surgery.  I am trying really hard to be a good patient and follow the doctor's orders - no lifting, pushing, pulling or exercise for six weeks is making me feel like a slug.  Dan has been doing his own job and mine when he's home.  And, when he's gone, Erin is picking up the slack.  Tuesday night in the bitter windchill, she hauled the trash out to the curb for me.  Now that's love...

Speaking of recovering, Papa Harkins is back in Nevada.  He had some minimal gain in his eyesight from the treatment in Minnesota, but the truth is that he is learning to function with basically one eye.  To find the underlying cause of the blood clot, they placed an implantable heart monitor and he will return in six months for follow up on his atrial fibrillation.  Tomorrow is his 72nd birthday.

So, the world spins madly on.  Life happens.  The good and the bad.  Persevere when necessary and celebrate the victories along the way...

January 6, 2015

It's our anniversary today - three full years now of living without Shannon.  The heartache is still very real.  Time does not heal all wounds...

We talk about her often and remember her in every way we can.  Yesterday, the three of us were discussing those final days of Shannon's life, of her struggles to eat and breathe as her life came to an end.  Those are memories we will never shake.  The bright full moon this week was eerily reminiscent of those final days in 2012.

During our conversation last night, Dan said, "I really can't believe where we are three years down the road."  To which Erin replied, "I know, I think we're doing pretty well".   And it's true.  We're doing all right.  It's OK for us to celebrate the fact that we are surviving and even sometimes thriving.

Despite that, Erin awoke this morning in sadness.  She doesn't cry often,  but there were tears to start this day as she feels the loss of her best friend.  So much for Miss E to bear at a young age.  She lost a whole future with her big sis.

So today, we will each do what needs doing - Erin is off to school, Dan is on the road again, and I am holding down the homefront.  But, we'll do it with an ache in our heart and a lump in our throat.  No way around it.  Just gotta get through it.

While the three of he us know we must carry on, we also know we are not alone.  One of Shannon's gifts to us are the people who lift us up, people who came to know us better along on this now almost 4 year journey from diagnosis through illness to death and into our new normal.

Messages are already arriving this morning from those who also feel the loss.  There is great comfort in that.  We want - we need - people to remember, so thank you.  We never mind hearing her name.  She is with us always.

"Your absence has gone through me 
Like thread through a needle.  
Everything I do is stitched with its color."
-- W.S. Merwin

New Year's Day 2015

The calendar has turned over... welcome to 2015.  There is always something promising about a blank slate in front of you, the anticipation of watching a new year unfold.

I know now that we can't predict what will lie ahead.  It's foolish to try.  I'm learning to take it as it comes, adjust when necessary, and persevere.  No bold predictions here, just a quiet understanding that I hope for better days ahead, but there are no guarantees.

I have spent the past two days resting as best I can.  To be honest, I have been exhausted.  The first 10 days after my surgery involved, Christmas Eve and Day celebrations, sending Erin off on her adventure, retrieving Erin from her aborted trip, hosting Ed and Tess for two days, and then visiting my dad in the hospital.  Not exactly laying low in my own recovery...

So, these past few days, I'm making up for lost time - sleep in, watch movies, nap, shower (maybe), repeat... Needless to say, I didn't see midnight.  Didn't even have a drink on New Year's Eve. Damn, I'm old...

Erin escaped the boredom around here by spending New Year's Eve will her bestie, Emily.  They've been friends since 4th grade and have been spending NYE together since 2011 when we returned from Memphis.  Erin and Emily loves each other like sisters.  Thank god for that...

Erin will come home and we will lounge around today, snacking and watching bowl games, including the Gophers.

My dad continues his treatment at Hennepin County Medical Center.  The clinical trial using the hyperbaric chamber has given him some light sensitivity back in his eye, but Papa has come to terms with the fact that he won't get much sight back in that eye.  He has been told that people can live and do most anything with one eye.  Over time, the brain will retrain itself to help him cope with the disability.

The bigger question is what caused the clot in the first place.  Two possibilities - the initial thought was arterial fibrillation, but further testing has also shown significant blockage and plaque in his left carotid artery.  So now, there is no definitive answer.

The plan going forward is to put in a heart loop monitor and check his heart rhythm over the next six months.  During that time, he will stay on blood thinners to prevent any further strokes/episodes.  If the heart rhythm is not the culprit, then potentially surgery may be performed to clear the carotid artery.

Papa will most likely be released from the hospital on Friday and he and mom will head back to Nevada this weekend.  What an adventure... and not the good kind...

So, 2014 ended in a jumbled mess of emotions.  A blank slate starts today.  I have no idea what it will hold.  Here's to 2015...

Papa Harkins Update

I am happy to report that Papa Harkins is back in the land of snow... and capable healthcare.  Sorry to all my Florida friends, but the quality of care there leaves a lot to be desired.

Papa suffered an retinal arterial occlusion caused by an episode of atrial fibrillation on the ship.  Afib can make you throw blood clots that settle in your organs.  Losing eyesight in one eye is terrible, but it could have been so much worse.

After a couple of frustrating days of substandard care in Port Canaveral and a less than comfortable flight home, Papa is now at Hennepin County Medical Center under the watchful eye of Dr. Scott Davies... who just happens to be Chuck's longest standing brother-in-law.

Scott has helped assemble a team of docs to treat the cardiac issues, and also attempt an experimental treatment on Papa's loss of sight.  HCMC has a hyperbaric chamber and Papa will now sit in there twice a day, two hours a day, for five days.  It's an effort to improve blood flow in the hopes of regaining some vision.

He's still got some cardiac issues to be resolved and there's no guarantee that his eyesight will return, but from here on out, Papa's getting the best care possible.

Hold a good thought for him as we move forward with treatment over these next few days.

As for Erin, she's doing all right.  Still disappointed, still sad and a bit shaken by all that has happened, but she'll get through it.  She always does.

And me and Dan, we are once again reminded of the grace and goodness of other people.  Those who are there to lift you up and help you move forward when you aren't sure you can.

I'll get a chance to visit my dad in the hospital tomorrow.  Can't wait to see him.