Brains Together for a Cure Annual Walk/Run

Dan and I will be taking part in this annual brain tumor awareness event. Brains Together for a Cure has been a great supporter of the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, and we like to do the same.

I will be walking the 5K, and Dan will be doing the 5K run. Online registration for the 5K/10K run is available until Sept. 28 and for the walk until Oct. 3.

So, dig out your Shannon gear and join us to remember Shannon and support the research that's so desperately needed.

BTFC Walk 2011

September 12, 2018

We have just finished packing Erin for college. We leave for Philadelphia tomorrow, we'll shop on Friday for all the dorm essentials and move her in on Saturday. Dan and I fly home to our empty nest Sunday morning.

People keep asking me how I'm doing with all this? So far, so good... I am beyond excited for Erin and that outweighs my sadness about the change in our lives. She is ready for the next stage, so I have to be, too. But, I will miss the rhythm we've developed. I know the house will be too quiet and I will have too much time without her here.

But, this is how it's supposed to be, and we're grateful to get to take our kid to college. We were cheated out of that experience once. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I've seen many posts and pictures of families we've met who have lost children to the big C. It's a shitty club to be in, so we do our best to support each other.

In my job, I've been doing research about pediatric cancer this past week, focusing on the emotional effects - writing about how siblings can struggle and marriages often times break up. It's the lead topic of this weekend's Mayo Clinic Radio program.

So, on Saturday, while we are moving Erin in to her freshman dorm, the script that I wrote about how difficult childhood cancer is on families will be on the air. How's that for the kismet, karma, whatever you want to call it?

Dan and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary at the beginning of this week and by the time the week is over, we'll leave Erin happy, healthy and ready to start college. We know not every kid gets that chance, so we have reason to celebrate. I'm damn proud to say that's where we are, just shy of 7 years after cancer took Shannon.

This picture was taken on Erin's first day of preschool:

She was scared and nervous. I was ready for her to go to school. Now the rolls are reversed. Life is funny that way. Dan and I would give Erin the world if we could. We'll get started this weekend.

"You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you." - Frederick Buechner

August 25, 2018

It's been a whole month since I last wrote in this space, so it must be time. The month of August has flown by and now the school year is upon us. I have to say it's very strange not to have someone in the Rochester Public School system this year. Shannon started in 2004 and Erin finished in 2018, so for 14 years I've had my schedule dictated by ISD #535. And now it's not...

I had to change some of my bookmarks on my computer - is out, is in.

Erin is enduring the long, painful process of saying goodbye to each of her friends who are heading off to college. She is among the very last to leave as she still has 20 days left in Rochester. I know she will be ready to go by the time Sept. 14th rolls around. While it's not goodbye forever as kids are more connected now via technology than ever before. But, it is goodbye to the way things were during high school. Who knows which friendships live on and which fade away as new ones take their place.

We have done all the shopping we can do. Her dorm room stuff is at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Philly waiting for us to pick it up. All that's left is to decide how much of her clothing she is taking and how many suitcases we will need to get it there.

In fact, we are so prepared that I'm leaving on vacation this week! I'm off to watch the US Open tennis tournament with 3 of my girlfriends. A VRBO in Queens, 3 or 4 days of watching the pros at Flushing Meadows, we'll take in a Broadway show and do a little NYC sightseeing. It's going to be a great getaway.

People keep asking me how I'm doing with the transition. So far so good... but Erin is still here right in front of me every day. I don't know how I'll feel once she's living somewhere else.  As Dan says, plan the action, not the outcome. I'm just going to have to feel what I feel when the time comes.

I know I'm lucky to have the friends I do. I've got my mom squad who are all in the same boat, sending out girls off to school. I've got my tennis friends and my volleyball friends. I plan to play both this fall to help keep my busy. I did a strength training class for the last 12 weeks, and I plan to continue that, too. Oh, and I have a full time job that I enjoy. So, I will stay busy, but I know there will be a void when I don't get to see Erin every day.

One day at a time, Jen. One day at a time...

Wednesday July 25, 2018

The posts on this blog are more infrequent now, and I can't really explain why. Life, I guess...

When I started this blog, I didn't have a full time job. We wrote the very first post on this site from up on Mayo Clinic floor 16 - the pediatric unit. We spent a lot of time up there on 16. Today, I had a regularly scheduled work meeting moved to a new location. A conference room on Mayo 16. I took a moment to sit and look out the windows where we would sit and look out while we waited for Shannon to have a blood draw or an appointment. I was remembering the day that we taped a piece of paper to the window, then hustled down the elevator and outside onto the Peace Plaza to see if we could spot it. I remember how excited Shannon and Erin were that they could see it. IN the midst of cancer treatment, we laughed.

Now, 7 years later, my job - a job I wouldn't have if I hadn't started writing this blog - took me back to Mayo 16. The universe sometimes circles back to places we've been before...

We are creeping up on what would be Shannon's 20th birthday. Perhaps that's why it hit me today. I still miss her every single day.

We're also spending time getting Erin ready for college. Because Drexel is on quarters, we don't take her to school until mid September. But the preparations have begun. She's texting with her suite mates about who is bringing what, and there's a shopping trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Ikea in our near future.

It's so exciting and scary. (And that's just me!) Is it normal to be jealous of your kid getting to go to college? I wanna move to a new city and have new adventures! I'm mostly kidding, but there is something exciting about the unknown.

And while we still have 6 weeks with Erin at home, I'm feeling the pangs of sadness that she's leaving.  I'm going to miss her something fierce. She's the person I see every day. Dan will continue to travel to help pay those tuition bills. I will continue to work and life will go on. But it will be lonely without Miss E.

But, it's as it should be. I want nothing more for Erin to go away and be successful and not need me, at least not too much. This is the goal when you have kids. Raise them to be good people. Direct them to set goals and work to achieve them. Not every kid gets that chance. It makes me sad that Shannon never got to chase her dreams. But Erin will. And that makes me happy, so this momma is going to be all right.

July 4, 2018

I used to think of the 4th of July as the middle of summer, but this year, it feels like we're just getting started.

June flew by, filled with all the festivities surrounding the end of high school. I think Erin lost track of  how many graduation open houses she attended. Now, she and her friend are referring to themselves as college students. They're not wrong.

Erin also spent the first three weeks of her summer working two jobs and saving money. She is motivated to help pay for college and minimize the loans she will need to take. She's definitely got some skin in the game, and she's invested. We couldn't be prouder.

We managed to end June with a trip to the cabin for a long weekend. Dan met us there last Thursday after his week of travel in North Dakota. Erin and I left after her work shift at 7pm. Our first trip with two dogs in the car. Uff da! We made it all the way to St. Paul before Gus puked in my car. Erin and I were singing along to the radio and Gus started barking. We thought he just didn't like the noise, but maybe he was trying to tell us something. Thankfully, that was the only episode of car sickness and we made it to the lake just before 11pm.

Time at the lake is rejuvenating for all of us. The sun, sand and water are the perfect combination. The only disappointment is that Gus did not take to the water. Perhaps he is less lab than we thought! He can swim, but he doesn't want to. We forced him to try and he is not very efficient. Lots of splashing as he tried to doggie paddle to shore.

Sunny made it to the cabin again for a 14th summer. Her heart is willing, but her hips don't work so well anymore. She now moves like an old dog. But, she still gets in the water to protect us and shepherd us to safety. We hope she's around for a little longer.

Our friends joined us and a great time was had by all. There was boating, tubing and fishing when the weather cooperated... and shopping, reading and napping when it didn't. A perfect combination.

Now we are home and enjoying the holiday before we all head back to work tomorrow. Erin still has two full months of summer as she doesn't move in at Drexel until Sept. 15.  We are all going to enjoy the time we have together.

Happy July 4th to you all!

Wednesday June 13, 2018

Today officially brought Erin's high school career to a close. She finished competing in the state golf tournament this afternoon, and her time as a Mayo Spartan is now over. What a ride it's been.

The last six days have included Erin's open house, graduation, an all night senior party and 36 holes of golf at the state tournament. All exactly as she wanted it.

Her open house brought a steady stream of people from the past and present. Erin's teachers, family and a whole bunch of friends joined us for our backyard barbecue. A testament to Erin's ability to connect with others. That's a skill that will carry her far in this world.

The graduation ceremony was a celebration of a great group of young people we've have the pleasure of getting to know. Erin's class was full of compassionate kids. They cared for each other. The jocks, the nerds, the artists... they were all in it together and supported each other. I have hope for our future when I look at these young people.

The all night senior party is a tradition, put on by the senior parents. I was in charge of the casino, and it was a blast. I even convinced Dan to stay up until midnight to deal some poker. He was in his element, smack talking with Erin's friends.

Then, the cherry on the top was a trip to the state golf tournament. All the hours Erin put in practicing, taking lessons and playing tournaments in the summer paid off with a 5th place finish in the section tournament, earning her a trip to the state tournament. Dan and I were grateful for two more days watching her play the game we all love. Mayo Girls Golf will always hold a special place in our heart. Shannon started our connection with MGG and coach Myhro, and Erin finished it in the best way possible.

And so it ends. Erin is now a college student. Change is ahead for all of us. But we're going to cherish these memories forever. Erin was in sixth grade when Shannon passed away. Dan and I were scared about what her future would hold after our tragedy. How would she navigate our new normal? You done good, kid... you done good.

Wednesday May 30, 2018

In two weeks, it will all be over: high school, grad party, graduation, all night senior party, HS golf. I am stressing out because there is much to do in the next two weeks, but I'm also trying to enjoy the "lasts" along the way.

We've been doing the grad party scene the last couple of weekends and I'm stealing ideas left and right! I know it doesn't matter what color the tablecloths are or what the centerpieces look like. I'm doing my best to organize some pictures and memorabilia to honor Erin and show where she's been and where she's going. I know it's the people that will make the party. I'm also stressing out about the weather. I know it's irrational, and completely out of my control. But, I seem to think it's my job to worry, so that's what I am doing.

It is a strange time for me and my mom squad friends. We're reaching an end, but it's a beginning, too. A beginning of our kids independence. A signal that it's time to let go, at least a little. It's time for them to "figure it out" without as much help from mom (and dad).

Like every new stage that Erin reaches, it carries extra weight for us. While that's not fair to Erin, it's just how it is. The last time we celebrated a graduation, it was watching Shannon's classmates graduate, looking at her empty chair in the arena. Erin's graduation is a reminder that Shannon didn't get to graduate. I'm carrying her in my mind and my heart as we navigate these days with Erin.

We remember Shannon. We celebrate Erin. We do both at the same time.