Willow Creek Rocks!

Over the last two days, Shannon and Erin's classmates helped us raise money for the Scholarship Fund.  Today, I stood and chatted with two boys, check that, two young men who have known Shannon since second grade.  We talked about life and heading off to high school in the fall.  Just as it should be.  Damn...

In honor of Brain Cancer Awareness Month, today was "Remember Shannon Day" and the Willow Creek staff and students sported their Shannon Scholarship Fund t-shirts with pride.  Thanks for showing the love, Wildcats.

Tuesday May 29, 2012

A quick weekend recap for you:

The weather was a bit dodgy and canceled the kids run on Saturday.  Erin was disappointed, but took it in stride... (sorry, bad pun)  We made the most of the day by spending it with the O'Hara aunts and uncles and cousin Grace.  Nothing like a room full of love and laughter and a tiny bit of sarcasm to brighten a rainy day!  Erin can hold her own with anybody - from her 12 year old friend Emily to her 64 year old Uncle Mike, and everyone in between.

Sunday morning brought the half marathon and again, the weather was a factor.  Hot and windy with high humidity made running 13.1 miles a struggle.  Dan was glad his brother Tim was running along side him and keeping him going.  They didn't run as fast as they would have liked, but finishing on a day like that is an big accomplishment as far at I'm concerned.

Running for Shannon.  Of course they made it.  She wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday brought better weather and Dan was feeling good enough for he and I to play a round of golf with our friends.  For the first time this spring, Erin played some golf, too, and she liked it.  She even wanted to go out again last night and play a few more holes!  I think being around those girls on the Mayo golf team has definitely inspired her to want to be a part of that next year.  Good deal.

So, another holiday weekend is behind us.  Lots of Shannon memories from a year ago kept popping up.  Holidays bring a break from the normal routine and allow for extra family time.  So poignant for us, because our family is different now.  But, we are learning to accept that Shannon is still with us in many ways.  And that part feels good.

Tuesday is here.  Back to work, everyone.

Saturday May 26, 2012

The Memorial holiday weekend is upon us.  A huge thunderstorm over night has given way to a cooler morning.  We are hoping the next round of storms holds off until after the kids marathon today.  Erin and her friend Emily are running this morning.  They made a plan to wear their "I heart Shannon" shirts, just as they did a year ago today.  A year ago today ....

We have been reminiscing a lot about that this week.  A year ago today, Shannon was feeling so good.  We were three weeks into radiation and chemotherapy, and she was handling it all in stride.  

A year ago today, a huge family gathering took place for the first time in our journey.  We asked for support, and they all came.  

A year ago today, Shannon looked at all those kids wearing shirts in her honor and said, "I don't want to watch them run for me, I want to run with them!"  And she did.

A year ago today, Shannon sat with TV reporter Chris Conte and gave the interview where she articulated what she was feeling:  she said just wanted to be a normal kid, but she also said she wanted her life to mean something to someone, some day.  Mission accomplished.

So, it is with a bit of a heavy heart that we go out and about on this weekend.  We will have a smaller O'Hara gathering today - this time to celebrate with Mike and Megan who share this birthday.  It will be nice to be with family today.  Erin will run today in Shannon's honor.  Dan and his brother Tim will run tomorrow for the same reason.  Our memories and her spirit keep pushing us forward.

Thursday May 24, 2012

Big shout out to Mayo Girls Golf.  The Spartans won the Big 9 Championship for the first time in 19 years Thursday.  The first league title for Coach Myhro.  On a soggy Faribault G & CC, Katrina Ruedinger won the individual title with a 77.  Nice playing @k_coolcat!  Katrina texted Jen "we won for Shannon today".

I have been carried through training for the Med-City Half-Marathon by music from the Shannon blog play list.

Here are the top 3 songs that helped me prepare for Sunday's race:

3) Paulo Nutini Rewind - Shannon used to pump up for soccer and hockey games cranking Paulo's New Shoes.  I know Rewind is a song is about a relationship gone bad.  But in my mind where all song lyrics weave a trail back to our life with and without Shannon; "why can't we just rewind?"

2) Jason Mraz Live High - My anthem for gratitude. "Glory God, God is peaking through the blinds..." I thought this might have been a great choice for the funeral service.  But it didn't work out in the context of a formal ceremony.  Regardless, it's a song that I have played -and sang loudly while running- often over the course of our journey.

"try to picture a girl through a looking glass
And see her as a carbon atom, see her eye and stare back at them
See the girl as her own new world
Though her home is on the surface she is still a universe ..."

1) Cold Play Fix You - Rumor has it the O'Hara cousins (see photo below) were crying this at the bar at Michael's til 0:dark:30 the night of Shannon's wake.

O'Hara cousins at the DC Race for Hope - May 6, 2012

"Tears stream down on your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down on your face
And I...
Tears stream down on your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down on your face
And I...
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you"

Needless to say training for this race has been easy.  There was no quit in Shannon, there is none in Erin, and I'll be damned if I'm going to whine about 13.1.  Now, there's no chance of me running a full Marathon.  I'm not an idiot.

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Things are status quo here in Rochester as everyone plugs along, doing what needs doing.

Dan is off traveling for work again - this week's destination is Sioux Falls, SD and surrounding areas.  Business is busy, and busy is good.  Dan hadn't been to South Dakota yet this year, so it's the first time facing these customers since Shannon's passing.  Some of these guys have known Dan for a dozen years, so these are friendships as well as customers relationships.  I suspect Dan is doing some talking about Shannon, our journey, the end, and carrying on.  Doing what needs doing.

I continue working on the book.  I'm going to get some feedback here the end of this week and talk about the timeline of how things go.  Still excited, but dealing with waves of self doubt.  I think I can, I think I can...

The rest of my time seems to be consumed with normal life stuff.  The refrigerator needed fixing and the van still does, and there's laundry and yard work, and so on and so on...  These minor irritants almost put me over the edge last week.  Then I stop and think, am I crazy?  How can I be upset about the fridge or the van?  Aren't there bigger things in my life to be upset about?  But, maybe that's just it.  The realization that our big loss doesn't stop the world from spinning.  The stuff of life still happens.  You still have to get up every day and deal with whatever is in front of you.  My kid dying doesn't exempt me from my fridge dying or my van dying!  Maybe there is some solace in that.  "Normal" things that happen to "normal" people happen to us, too.

Erin is plugging away at these final 10 school days.  There is still math to be done, and a rocket made out of a pop bottle to build.  She is going to finish 6th grade and put this year behind her.  Doing what needs doing.

I don't know if I've seen a kid change as much in a school year as Erin has this year.  Part of it is genetic - she has changed physically from a little kid into a young lady who is already taller than a couple of her aunts, and seems to be creeping up on her mom every day.

Part of it is environmental - she's hanging with the older kids now, so it's time to care about what you wear and how you look.  (And, by the way, how your parents look!)

But Erin's school year also involved this life changing event that matured her in ways beyond understanding.  She knows now that life isn't fair.  She knows that bad things sometimes happen to good people.  She knows that as much as I try, I can't protect her from everything.

But, she also knows that there are good people all around who will help pick you up.  She knows that she can make friends and find her own way.  She knows that she is strong and can handle adversity.  She knows that you better spend your time doing the things you like and being with the people you like because no one knows what the future holds.

This school year, Erin has learned enough to be on the A Honor Roll, and then some ...


With coach Bart away this weekend, Dan and I had the soccer coaching duties to ourselves.  It was hot and windy, and we only had one sub, but our Thunderbolts put out a heck of an effort Saturday. 

Erin and her buddy Hallie each scored a goal and then, with a 2-2 tie late in the game, Erin made a sweet pass across to her teammate Zoe who buried it in the back of the net for a 3-2 victory.

Our friend Kula came and took some photos today. Check out Erin in action:

Now, check out me and Dan in action, using our best body english on the side lines.  This is what happens when you've been together with the same person for a very long time:

We've been laughing out loud tonight about this one!  A good day today.  Tomorrow, volleyball...

Saturday May 19, 2012

It's Saturday morning here in steamy Rochester and we are more than glad that the weekend is here.  This was a tough week.  Dan and I are both struggling with the fact that life goes on, people move on, and we are still here in our grief.  And even though we are in it together, it can be a very lonely feeling.

Don't get me wrong - we are still surrounded by family and friends who support us and will listen when we need an ear.  But the passing of time just means that everyone gets farther away from their time with Shannon.  More things happen that Shannon wasn't a part of.  Every day that goes by is creating a piece of history that doesn't include her.  She wasn't here for the things that are taking place now.  And yet, we wake up thinking of her each and every day.

This is it - this is the grief, the pain, the loss that just is.  There's no fix for it, no cure.  This is learning to go on living, and just carry her memory with us as we move forward.

Erin is helping us, for sure.  How can we curl up in the fetal position when the 11 year old is getting up each day and going on?  School, friends, sports - she's filling up her social calendar and then telling us where and when she needs to be somewhere and, oh yeah, can I have $20?  Thank goodness for Erin.

So, here's what Erin has planned for us this weekend:  a soccer game today at 1pm, followed by swimming with friends, followed by a cookout.  Then, Sunday will be volleyball all day to wrap up the season.  You go girl, and we'll follow...

Wednesday May 16, 2012

16 days left in the school year, so the race is on to summer vacation.  That means it's time for me to do the mom duty of filling up the summer calendar:  plan enough activities to keep Erin busy, but not so much that she feels over-scheduled.  There are plenty of options out there:  basketball camp, volleyball open gyms, trips to the cabins, etc.  It will be a different summer, for sure, without Shannon.  Another first.  Hard not to think about last summer and all the summers before.

But, before we get there, there are a few things left on the school year agenda.  Some school work left to do, of course.  Two math units and a math final exam that has Erin a little stressed out.  Considering she skipped an entire month of math while we were in Memphis, she's doing incredibly well, all things considered.  Erin will get through it and we have made plans with a tutor this summer to go back and re-visit the material she missed so she is ready for 7th grade come fall.  

This is the last week of spring volleyball for the South Side Juniors.  Sunday the season will finish up with an all day tournament here in Rochester.  Erin has loved it and plans to play again in the fall.  She'll work on her game this summer which of course, kills two birds with one stone:  you get better at volleyball and you get to hang out with your friends!

Soccer carries on for another three weeks and takes us right up to the end of the school year.  The Thunderbolts had a great game last Saturday and they are a fun group of girls.  With Erin switching to volleyball come fall and then planning to play high school golf next spring, this appears to be the end of our soccer coaching career.  We've been coaching and watching soccer since Shannon started in 3rd grade.  So, I'm going to enjoy this last three weeks.

Dan is on a monster trip this week - Rochester to Fargo to Eau Claire.  As he says, in his job the customers don't come to you, you go to the customer.  His travels and contacts are starting to produce some new accounts, so that makes the nights away from home worth it.

I've continued with my writing - a little each day - but also not pushing too hard this week until I get some feedback from my editor.  It's a process, and I need to be patient.  

Instead, I've been spending a great deal of time working on the scholarship, writing a mission statement and creating an application.  Rochester Youth Hockey is going to add the donation information to their web page, and we're going to get a chance come registration time to take donations from anyone who is signing up for youth hockey.  That's 900 kids in this town!  

I also communicated with all four high schools here in Rochester and they now have the scholarship application information.  Dan and I will go and promote it to the high school hockey players when their seasons start next fall, and we feel like we are well on our way to giving out those first scholarships next spring.  The scholarship fund went over $10,000 this week as donations continue to trickle in.  Thank you.

Putting my energy into working on the scholarship feels good.  Working on the book feels good.  Most of the time.  I do have a little crisis of confidence from time to time and wonder what the heck I am doing.  

I continue to read our daily reflection and often it helps to remind me to forge ahead.  I have never been a crusader and have mostly held my feelings and beliefs to myself.  But, to honor the  spirit of the child I lost?  To do that, I can change.  I can promote a scholarship in her memory and I can write a book to tell her story.  I can do something with this grief.

"Out of every crisis comes the chance to be reborn, to reconceive ourselves as individuals, to choose the kind of change that will help us to grow and to fulfill ourselves more completely." - Nena O'Neill

Mother's Day 2012

There is zero doubt in my mind that Shannon has delivered a final Mother's Day present to Jen; the bluest blue sky, cloudless, windless, windows open, birds chirping.  A perfect 10 tribute.

Jen has chosen to keep it low key which shouldn't surprise any of  us.  The last thing she wants is to draw attention to herself and another first.

Moms are like that.  Always thinking about the rest of the family first.  Staying below the radar.  Staying a move or two ahead of the family and its needs.  Organized.  Selfless.  Completely selfless.

So coaxing out of Jennifer what kind of day she desired was a challenge.  Finally, this morning she admitted the only thing she really wanted to do was to watch Roger Federer in the finals at Madrid.  So while doing laundry she is watching tennis.  Fresh bagels in the house.  Erin is taking care of some required reading.

Maybe a walk later together as a family of three.  Maybe some golf.  Maybe nothing at all.  A good day.

Erin and I are are grateful for Jennifer.  She's just a terrific Mom.

Friday May 11, 2012

We can string together some really good days and then, bam, something hits us.  It's been that kind of week.  Very productive, for the most part.  I did a lot of work on the book, and submitted my progress so far to my editor this afternoon.  A little scary for this first time author, for sure.  We've got a timeline set up and it seems like I'll be able to get my writing done on schedule, so I'm not really feeling any pressure ... yet ...

Dan had another busy work week.  Busy is good.  Erin informed me tonight that there are 18 school days left.  One more week of volleyball and one more month of soccer.  Things are speeding toward the finish line.

But today, a couple things brought us back to Shannon.

An envelope came in the mail from Shannon's science teacher, sharing his thoughts and also passing along some work that Shannon had done in his class earlier this year.  He said he hasn't been ready to let her go, but the school year is drawing to a close, so it was time.  Tears came quickly when I saw her handwriting and read the e-mail that she sent to her class from Memphis.  Shannon was letting them know she was hoping to be back to class right after winter break.  She still believed ...

Then this afternoon, Dan, Erin, and I headed out to Eastwood Golf Course to check in on the Mayo Girls golf team.  Erin has plans to be a part of that crew next year, and she already knows quite a few of the girls on the team.  E will be well taken care of next year!

We went to watch today because Shannon's good buddy Megan was getting her first chance to play in a meet, and we wanted to be there to support her.  Shannon would have been so happy for Megan.  I could almost picture Shannon rooting her on.

Watching Megan play reminded me of that day last May when Shannon competed in her one and only meet.  Megan did great, reaching her goal of breaking 60.  We felt so happy for Megan, and yet so sad that Shannon wasn't there.  For us, the tears just came.

So, now tonight the emotions are close to the surface, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Erin shared some Shannon memories with us this week, too.  It's all a part of grieving -  processing, coping, healing... remembering Shannon feels so good and so bad at the same time.

Monday May 7, 2012

"Life's not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain."

Vivian Greene
Erin - 2008

Sunday May 6, 2012

Today we mark four months without Shannon Anne O'Hara in our lives.  This anniversary will be impossible to forget because her death came with a full moon in the sky above.  At 4 months, a rare "Super Moon".  Anyone look ahead in the Farmer's Almanac?  Maybe we can expect a total eclipse next January 6.

The posts on Facebook today tell us Shannon's friends are marking this anniversary as well.  Pretty sweet.  They will not forget either.

Atmospherically, Shannon's influence on our world is undeniable. Last Sunday we planted a tree in her honor - fertilized with her ashes - and for the next week the snowdrift crab was nourished with sunshine and rainfall.  Almost three inches of rain in the week. Things are looking lush here on Willow Lane SW.

I tell people that ask - and thankfully they still ask often - that we are either coping well or in denial.  Among the many gifts Shannon left us - maybe the most important - was acceptance.  Accept your place in the world, embrace it, make the most of it.  Do the best you can with what you have.  What a concept.

Erin is a lot of fun to be around and her circle of friends and their families have been great for us.  We're too damn busy to be depressed.  And I can say with 100% confidence that Shannon would not allow for a pitiful existence.  So we keep plugging along...
Prayer power needed for the Wente family - pray that Kathy Green gets her Mother's Day celebration. Damn cancer.

Vikings stadium vote is Monday - Shannon loved her Vikings. She would be sad if they were the LA Vikings. I can still see her crocodile tears after those bounty-bully New Orleans Saints beat our purple headed warriors in the 2009 NFC Championship. She was passionate like that - for better and for worse. Shannon cried about things like wins and losses. She was not a good loser.  But when she won...there was no one happier on this earth...

Cinco de Mayo

Another busy day in the life of Erin Irene.  Dan and I are just along for the ride...

We picked her up from a sleepover and she was dressed and ready for soccer action.  The Thunderbolts performance today, well, next subject... when the other team scores 11 seconds into the game, you're in trouble.  Maybe it was the coaching.

A quick change of uniform and footwear and it was off to the volleyball center for a one day tournament.  Erin played in 4 matches and her team won the last three in a row to take first place in the silver bracket.  Erin is soaking up every minute of the time spent learning a new sport and being with her pals.

There was awful news this week in a nearby community with the suicide of a 13 year old girl who was being bullied.  Dan and I have been struggling with that.  So angry on one hand, because our kid would have given anything for more time on this earth. But also, feeling sad for a kid who felt so hopeless and alone.

Hearing news like that makes me even more grateful for what I saw today - 11 Thunderbolts cheering each other on, even as they were getting their asses kicked.  Then 11 South Side Juniors doing the same thing at volleyball.  Spending energy picking each other up instead of putting someone down.  So healthy and positive for those girls, and for Miss E.

Now we are home and Erin is already in her pajamas and lying in her bed, watching Netflix, quite content.  The extent of our Cinco de Mayo celebration was some chips and salsa.

Full moon tonight.  Four months tomorrow.  A third of a year without Shannon.  Can it be?

Wednesday May 2, 2012

Yesterday we went to watch some of the Mayo HS girl's golf meet.  Fun to check in on the girls and see them in their green golf shirts with the initials S.A.O. embroidered on the sleeve.  They've dedicated their season in memory of Shannon, and each girl's golf bag sports a bagtag with Shannon's picture on one side and these words on the other:
     Don't Stop Believin'  
     Never, Never, Never Give Up
     Shannon the Cannon

Pretty cool.

The days are running together and moving quickly.  May has arrived and we had our first big spring thunderstorm in the middle of the night last night.  Shannon loved a good thunderstorm.

We find reminders of her everywhere, and we like to remember.  We are more comfortable when people want to remember with us.  The people who are close to us allow us that opportunity whenever we like.  They say her name and allow us to do the same.  People on the periphery still don't know what to do.  Maybe they never will.

Who Shannon was and how she lived are at the forefront of my thoughts these days as I try to work each day on my book project.  (As an aside, whenever possible, look for a project that allows you to do your work while drinking coffee and wearing your pajamas...)

I met with my publishing people (yes, I have publishing people, woo hoo!) today and talked through more ideas about the book.  Working on this project is rewarding and exciting and scary.  And sometimes very difficult.

OK, enough about me!  Dan is busy, which is good.  He's been able to stay at home this week, but there is always work to be done, and he has more travel weeks in his near future.  He's training hard for the Med City half marathon and managing to fit in a couple of rounds of golf, too.

Erin has been stringing together some good days.  We love to see her happy, but continue to let her know it's o.k. when she's not.  The school year is chugging along - this is a long stretch of  five day weeks.  But, I signed a permission slip yesterday for the end of the year field trip, so the finish is in sight.

This weekend Miss E will be busy with a birthday party sleepover on Friday and double duty on Saturday:  a soccer game and a volleyball tournament here in town.  Her two biggest fans will be there, I can promise you that.