Friday Dec. 8, 2017

The cold temps, a dusting of snow and the decorations on our street have brought the holidays to the forefront in a hurry. We've been so busy that we have a Christmas tree, but no decorations on it yet. This is way late for me and my anxiety over getting things done on time is kicking in to high gear! I haven't bought a single present or sent out Christmas cards yet. Erin tells me she'll have time after school today to help string the lights and hang the ornaments, so that will be a step in the right direction.

We're a little behind schedule since we've been traveling. After returning from our Thanksgiving vacation, we worked for three days and then headed out again to do college visits in New Jersey and Philadelphia. A bonus was staying with my aunt and uncle, who are great hosts and even better company.

Erin has now applied to 10 schools, visited 8, been accepted to 4, and awaits decisions from the other 6. She's got a definite first choice, but we're not talking about it until an acceptance letter comes!

Touring college campuses is fun. I am all in on this process... Dan and Erin might say I'm over the top... I just like to be prepared with facts, figures, looking at the map, etc. Yes, I realize I am not the one who is going to school...

So while we wait for acceptance decisions, it's time to turn our focus to the holidays. It's always an interesting time of year. Joy and excitement, but also a layer of sadness for us with each Christmas that passes without Shannon. She was here so long ago.

The holidays are a tough time for people who have lost loved ones. Not that we don't miss our loved ones every day, but it's more acute in times of celebration, when we are taking stock of all the good in our lives. And there is plenty of good. But something is always missing. And, I think, the idea of Erin growing up and moving on to college is making me think even more about Shannon.

We've in the midst of our holiday giving campaign again for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, and it makes going to the mailbox a joy each day. Those who are willing to give in memory of Shannon are a reminder that she was here, she mattered, and her spirit carries on.

"It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty." - Goethe

Thanksgiving Day 2017

We are enjoying our fourth consecutive non-traditional Thanksgiving. Using all of Dan's Marriott points to enjoy some R & R at our favorite resort in Palm Desert, CA.

Golf, sun and time together without the distractions of work and school. That's something for which to be thankful. With Erin in college next year, we don't know that this will be in the plans in 2018, so we are enjoying every minute of it this time around.

On this day, we take stock of the good things in our lives. A day about gratitude.

I am thankful for our families who have supported us and root for our happiness.

I am thankful for friends who have become family.

I am thankful for the ladies in my life. So many groups of women - tennis friends, volleyball mom squad and the hockey moms - who I get to call friends.

I am thankful for a job I love that keeps me engaged and learning new things.

I am thankful for Shannon. I was lucky to be her mom and am grateful I get to carry on her spirit.

Most of all, I am thankful for Dan and Erin. They are my everything. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope your day is filled with laughter, love, friendship and family.

Shannon O'Hara Foundation Night - Nov. 16 - Rochester Rec Center

Just a friendly reminder that we will be celebrating HS girls hockey tomorrow night at the Rec Center. It's a doubleheader:

     Century vs. Mankato East - 5:30pm
     JM vs. Mayo - 7:30pm

Some of the Lourdes girls hockey team will be on hand as well, volunteering at our merchandise table.

New Shannon gear will be available: hoodies, 1/4 zip, ladies baseball T's


Youth hockey players who wear their jersey to the games, get in free with a paid adult.

See you tomorrow night at the Rec Center!

Saturday Nov. 4, 2017

Dan and I took Sunny the Wonderdog for a walk around the reservoir this morning. Cold and wet... and invigorating. It's always been our place to walk and talk about life. It's a Shannon place for sure.

Today's talk was about Erin, college, jobs. The usual life stuff. These are uncertain times where we don't know what next fall will look like. Will we be going somewhere out east to visit Erin? Will she change her mind and decide to stay closer? Where will she get in? How much will it cost? I'm so not good at uncertainty...

Erin has transitioned from the end of volleyball season to her first winter without a sport since elementary school. No offseason volleyball, so more time to work at the RAC and keep her social life humming. Let's just say, she's succeeding!

Girls hockey season started this week and I had the privilege of talking to some of the teams at their pre-season meetings. This year's senior class are the last girls who played on teams with Shannon. And, the youngest girls on these high school teams grew up playing in the Shannon Cup tournaments. So, a time of transition. Walking in to a room and seeing three different girls wearing Shannon gear is pretty cool.

Speaking of Shannon gear, new stuff has arrived! We have a new 1/4 zip for men and women, a new hockey hoodie and a baseball t for women. 



We will be selling Shannon gear at two upcoming girls hockey dates:

     Nov. 16 - Rec Center
          Century vs. Mankato East - 5:30pm
          JM vs. Mayo - 7:30pm

     Dec. 21 - Graham Arena 
          JM vs. Owatonna - 5:30pm
          Lourdes vs. Eden Prairie - 7:30

So, another hockey season is upon us. We're ready.

Sunday Oct. 22, 2017

Has it been 3 weeks since I sat down to share my thoughts? Looking at the list of posts on this blog, I guess so.

Fall is in full swing here in MN. The leaves are flaming out in brilliant colors and then giving way to what comes next. I saw on the news last night that snowflakes appeared on the weather forecast for later this week.

The volleyball regular season ended this weekend and playoffs begin on Wednesday. It's down to the win or go home portion of the season. Hard to believe 6 years of volleyball is down to the final weeks. It's been a joy to watch Erin and her friends play and I'm going to miss it terribly. Erin will, too. While she still has a high school golf season left, and potentially golf in college, it's not the same feeling as playing a team sport like volleyball. We've enjoy (almost) every minute of it.

But, the season's not over yet. Mayo should get a first round home playoff game this Wednesday.

Simultaneous with the volleyball season has been college application season! Erin is just about done with me prodding and cajoling her to get things done. Erin is applying to 5 schools that have direct entry Physician Assistant's programs and another 4 schools that have health sciences or nursing options. Thank goodness for the Common App which makes applying to multiple schools an easy task.

Because of the early deadlines for the PA programs (Nov. 1), Erin is applying to schools she hasn't yet seen. This is not the most efficient way to do things, but it's the best we could do during volleyball. In December, me, Dan and Erin will make a trip to NJ/PA to look at the schools to which Erin applied. We already visited the NYC schools that are on her list, so after Dec., she will have seen all the schools she's considering.

There are no guarantees of getting into a direct entry PA program as it is very competitive. But, Erin's done what she could to beef up her resume and whatever happens, she's going to go to college somewhere :)

So, senior year clicks along with this strange dual role for Erin. Doing things at Mayo for the last time (homecoming, volleyball season) while planning for what's ahead.

Dan and I are doing our best to enjoy the moments as they pass and start preparing for what's ahead, too. What will we do in our empty nest? Erin is sure I can't come to college with her...

But, lots of ground to cover before that. Two weeks left in first quarter, volleyball playoffs and college applications to be sent. When all of that is said and done, our annual Thanksgiving trip to Palm Desert. We will all be ready for some R & R.

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: shannonoharafoundation.org). 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.

P.S.

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: www.brainstogetherforacure.org.

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