Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I can feel the calendar creeping towards fall, but the weather outside tells a different story.  A late August heat wave is pushing the temps into the 90's these next few days.  While it feels like summer, we know that September is just days away.

There's a part of me that just wants to get this "year of firsts" behind me.  This week, I can't help but think back to last year at this time.  Shannon's late August MRI last year showed us the significant shrinkage of the tumor and she was ready to go to 8th grade.  We met with her teachers and told them it was all systems go for a great year at Willow Creek.  She was playing soccer and skating and ... well, I just wish my mind didn't play the "a year ago at this time" game because it's difficult to believe where we were just one year ago.  Shannon was here and she was doing everything she set out to do...

But, time doesn't stop, so here we are coming up on the Labor Day weekend that marks the end of another summer.  

Erin is holding on to these last few summer days - still sleeping in - but she will be ready to go on Tuesday.  She has had a lot of freedom this summer, often staying up much later than me and Dan.  But, she knows the end is near.  In fact, she even managed to read a book over these past couple of days!  (I hope her English teacher isn't reading this...)

Fall also starts the new session of tennis lessons at the Rochester Athletic Club and I've decided to teach a couple of classes again.  I haven't been on the schedule since November, but they want me back, so I will teach a few hours a week and see how it goes.  It's probably a good idea for me to have somewhere I need to be, at least a couple of days a week.  Starting Tuesday, Erin will leave the house at 6:50am and return from volleyball at 6:15pm and Dan will be on the road, and I'll suddenly have a lot of time on my hands!

So, teaching a little tennis again is part of my plan.  As for the rest of my plan, well, I'm still working on it ...

I've been listening to a lot of music this past week.  Some different artists have been keeping me company -  James Morrison, Imagine Dragons, Ben Rector.  I came across a song I had never heard before by an artist named Carlos Bertonatti.  His song, The Little Things, struck a cord with me this week:

My experience tells me the river flows 
From North to South with an undertow
And 20 million people sing
Hallelujah to all kinds of things
And I still don't know
Just where we're gonna go...

If life has taught me anything 
It's all about the little things, oh yeah...

Brains Together For A Cure

We want to get the word out about an upcoming event that we will be a part of again this year - so mark your calendars and join us October 6th if you can.

In memory of Shannon, we will be walking at the BTFAC fundraiser.  This is a local organization and all proceeds from this event go directly to the Mayo Clinic to fund brain tumor research.

In addition, Dan has been asked to be a speaker at this year's event.  A chance to share our story, raise some money, and remember our girl.

We'd love to have a whole crew of people sporting Shannon T-shirts - any one of the many versions that are out there - so come join us!

Here are the details:

Date:  October 6, 2012
Time:  9:00am Registration, 10:00am walk
Place:  RCTC Fieldhouse

If you pre-register by September 21st, the cost is $20, same day registration on October 6th is $25.

BTFAC Registration Link

Erin O.

I can't help but share this, so indulge me.  Courtesy of Matt Addington Photography, here's our Mayo Spartan volleyballer...

Thursday August 23, 2012

It's been another busy week around here.  Does it seem like I say that a lot?

Volleyball is in full swing - uniforms have been handed out and a fundraiser has taken place.  Team sweatshirts have been ordered and tomorrow it's time for team pictures.  Next week their season begins with two matches already!

It's funny to see Erin jumping right in to being a Mayo Spartan.  We always assumed her big sister would be there to show her the ropes, but that wasn't meant to be.  So, Erin will figure it out on her own.

Now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Erin is still in middle school and that meant today was schedule pick up day.  I see some familiar teacher's names on Erin's schedule and that makes me happy.  We've had such good experiences with these teachers at Willow Creek, and I suspect this year will bring more of the same.

So Erin's schedule will keep her busy with English and Social Studies, Life Science and Linear Algebra, and throw in a little Health, 21st Century Technology, Band, and Phy Ed for good measure.  After that each day she will ride the activities bus to Mayo High School for volleyball practice.  Home in time for dinner and homework, then get up and do it all again...

I have been busy with book stuff - writing captions and finding the photos that will appear in the book.  Hard to look at the photos in sequence like that.  When I look chronologically at the 64 images that appeared in this blog in a year, they tell their own story.

Fall is in the air now, school will be starting soon, and hockey tryouts are approaching.  Just last year, Shannon was preparing for all of it.  Now, her friends carry on, and we watch and support them the best we can.

The highlight of this week for us was a visit from Dr. Cynthia Wetmore.  She was in Rochester and made time to see us.  We hadn't seen her since saying goodbye on a rainy day in Memphis last December 22nd.

Erin, Dan, and I enjoyed re-connecting with her in person.  As Dan said to me later, "She is a cool chick."  We all talked about Shannon, of course, and then Erin filled her in on volleyball and middle school.  Cynthia talked about the research they are doing at St. Jude, and Dan and I brought her up to speed on the book.

Dr. Wetmore will be a part of the book project, providing a foreword that speaks about the horrible disease that took Shannon's life, and the need for research.

Dan's right, by the way.  She is a cool chick.  I'm glad to call her a friend.

Tuesday August 21, 2012

I just experienced an incredible moment.  Bloggable, spiritual, affirming in so many ways that we are doing... doing the best we can.

In the office these past couple days, the emails and calls and email replies and IM's... and I was just a little stressed out.  I needed a reset.  So I grabbed the Ipod and the leash and me and Sunny the Wonderdog headed for the Willow Creek Reservoir.

Almost immediately the stress washed away.  In Minnesota right now, we are enjoying a stretch of weather that is as close to perfect as you will find.  Overnights lows in the 50's.  Windows open. Bright stars. Daytime highs in the 70's with a high blue sky.  Just about as good as it gets and this morning was no exception.

Sunny comes out of the gate strong when we get to the reservoir - her nose working at peak performance.  A chase of a squirrel, a paw dig in the dirt after an underground critter.  Her senses are at high alert.  Her ears are perked and tailed curved with maximum excitement.  It's worth the effort just to see her so alive.  But a dog in nature doesn't worry too much about pacing herself.

So halfway around the lake, Sunny is lagging behind with her tongue dangling about 4 inches longer than normal.  So I kneel to scratch her ears and give her a moment to rest.  She sits next to me and lets me.  And I take in the beauty.  The water was perfectly still.  Birds are darting in and out of the wildflowers.  James Taylor singing Sweet Baby James in my headphones.

Just a moment in time.  I looked at Sunny and she looked at me and I said "ain't it great to be alive pup?"  And she just smiled.  And we just enjoyed the moment.

I stood up to continue the hike and looked up and there she was.  Perched no more than 40 feet above my head was our eagle.  Giant white head locked on me and Sunny.  Just watching.  I said "Good morning Shannon".  And we headed for home...

Monday August 20,2012

We laughed a lot yesterday.

We laughed over coffee with a friend, we laughed on the golf course, and we laughed over dinner with family.  If you had told me on April 15th of 2011 or on January 6th of 2012 that this is how I would feel on August 19th, well, I probably would have said "bullshit, there's no way".  And yet, here we are...

We can feel joy, and we can see the good that's here, right now.

I guess you never know how you will react to a situation until it happens.  We're not perfect, and yes, sometimes we struggle.

But, given the options we have in front of us, we try and choose to see the good, to feel the joy whenever we can.  Erin, too.  That kid is happy.  Yes, she misses her sister and sometimes she is mad and sad and curses the universe.  Me, too.  But, Erin also seeks joy, and often finds it.  Me, too.

Life is short, so we better enjoy what we've got.  Living in the present, seeing the good that's right here, right now.

Wednesday August 15, 2012

Between book deadlines and volleyball tryouts, there have been a lot of stressful moments around here these past couple of days.  Definitely taking years off my life, but all is well that ends well.

After 3 tense days of tryouts and some anxious moments waiting to find out, Erin made the C squad (9th grade) Mayo Volleyball team.  This will keep her busy every day after school for the next couple of months and give her a chance to keep improving her skills.  Erin's buddies that were trying out made the team as well, so it's good on the social front, too.

Erin's other accomplishment today was completing Chapter 5 of her Pre Algebra math textbook from last year.  Erin had missed an entire chapter on rational numbers while we were in Memphis last year, and with the events of January, we just skipped that chapter and moved on.  Not really fair to Erin, but it was the best we could do at the time.  But, after working with a helpful tutor, Erin now feels like she's covered all the necessary material to be ready for this year's math curriculum, Linear Algebra.

Enough about Erin, let's talk about me!

I've had to meet some book deadlines this week:  Book title, book cover, author photo... stressful stuff because, of course, I want it to be just right.  And, of course, the best way to make something perfect is to obsess over it, right?  I'm good at that.  But seriously, Dan and Erin weighed in, and we made the decision together.  Not sure if I'm supposed to be sharing the title with the public yet, so, consider this a tease...  Anyway, I'm feeling really good about our choices and I'm amazed at the progress that we've made in the last few days.

Next up for me is reading through the manuscript and writing captions for the photos in the book.  This is a first full read through and there is still a chance to edit/add/subtract material.  This will be a challenge for me to read my own work critically.  I, of course, will be obsessing over it.  Luckily, I do trust that my editors and publishers will offer their opinions and help make the book better.

So, it's full steam ahead with fall sports and fall projects.  One of those fall projects is to put some energy into raising more money for The Scholarship Fund.  Along those lines, we've created a new Shannon bracelet.  This one is metallic silver with lime green text reading, "The Shannon Fund" on one side and "Honoring Her Spirit" on the other.  We will sell them for $3 apiece or 4 for $10.  Dan and I will each carry a stash with us, so if you see us out and about and you'd like to buy a new Shannon bracelet, don't hesitate to ask.

As always, we keep pushing forward while remembering.  Lots of reminders this week.  It seems at least one kid has on a Shannon t-shirt at volleyball practice every day.  That brings a smile to our faces.  And a couple of days ago, Dan and I chatted with some of the 9th grade boys who were hanging around after football practice.  Some of those boys - heck, young men - go back as far as second grade with Shannon.  We are connected to them forever.

That incoming 9th grade class picked up their first semester schedules this week.  The graduating class of 2016 is ready to start high school...damn...

Monday August 13, 2012

Happy 49th Birthday, Dan.  I am not sure if Erin is laughing with him or laughing at him!  Either way, laughing is good.

DanO filled his day with friends, food, fun, and memories.  Lots of people acknowledging his little angel watching over him.  Nice.  We can put this day in the good column...

Sunday August 12, 2012

It is a lazy, rainy Sunday morning here in Rochester and that's just fine with us.  We have all been on the go for the past week, and the three of us are home now and enjoying still being in our pajamas at 10 a.m.

Dan returned from sales meetings in Nashville, and is glad to have a few days in a row at home before he hits the road again.  Both things are good - going out there and doing your job and then returning home.  He heard a speaker talk about leading a "can't wait" life.  As in, "I can't wait to go to work, and I can't wait to come home."  Good food for thought for a guy whose job requires him to be away from home weekly.

Erin, Sunny and I made one more trip up north - this time to the Wisconsin cabin with the Harkins family: Grandma, Grandpa, Eric, Jen, Laurynn, and Jack.  It was fun to have a few days with my family to catch up on life.

Erin enjoyed some cousin time - swimming, playing cards, staying up late, and, trying to get Laurynn and Jack to see the light and realize that the boy band One Direction is where it's at.  Erin attempted to brainwash her cousins by constantly playing the music of "One D" and by showing Laurynn and Jack videos on You Tube to prove how cute and talented Harry, Niall, Zayn, Liam and Louis are...if you don't have an adolescent daughter, well, you'll have to check it out for yourself.    

The cousins also spent time planning and competing in the Lake-A-Thon.

The Lake-A-Thon was created by the cousins several years ago, and Shannon was always the ring leader, deciding on the events and providing the awards.  Each cousin makes their own sign to identify their country, and they carry them in an opening and closing ceremony, Olympic style.

The events are things like an obstacle course, a timed foot race, or a best jump off the dock contest.  In past years, the awards consisted of the finest medals Shannon could buy at the dollar store in Hayward.  Shannon always took care to make sure the youngest (cousin Jack) achieved athletic success.  It's a dear memory for all of us, and especially for Grandma who loves nothing more than seeing all her grandkids playing and laughing together.

So, after skipping 2011, the Lake-A-Thon returned.  I'm proud to say, Laurynn and Erin picked right up where Shannon left off.  There were running events and swimming events and awards.  (By the way, Jack doesn't need anyone to let him win as he's now the fastest runner in the bunch!)

Good fun, with a hint of sadness and loss.  Pretty standard emotions for this family these days.  Another familiar place and event that's now different.  That doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable.  It was.  It's just... different...

Thursday August 9, 2012

Tonight's run took me through the college campus of Vanderbilt University, a campus I think could easily be described as elegant.  When I'm in college towns I enjoy running on campus'.  The scenery is usually strong.

In Nashville this week for meetings at HQ, I have enjoyed running on the Vandy grounds, then back to the hotel past the countless recording studios on Music Row returning to the West End.  Lovely part of the city.

Also, ran past the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Children's Hospital and an office with a sign that read; "Clinical Trial Records".  It occurred to me that a Shannon O'Hara story was unfolding somewhere everyday.

I had some really intense Shannon dreams this week.  But the funny thing, or should I say, the odd thing about them; they took place and I knew she was the main character in them but she was already gone.  I can't describe the sensation, but when I woke I felt like she was close but she was gone.

I described the dream to a friend who has experienced the loss of a child and her response was "sucks, don't it."  Some kind of support group, huh?  Actually, she's right.  There's no sugar coating it.

I have been crankin' up the hotel points these past couple weeks.  Jen and Erin are getting away to the Harkins'/Davies Family cabin in Wisconsin while I'm down here in Tennnesee.  We will see each other again on Saturday night in Rochester.  I'm missing that Smiley kid.  And her Mom.

Next week I will be in Michigan.  On a roll professionally.  Momentum going so why the hell heck not ride it out.

Train has a song I recommend you load...came up on my shuffle tonight...

For Me It's You

Give it away, give it away, give it away

If it's something that you got layin' round your house

Man let me tell ya if ain't a kiss
It's something you'll never miss 
Give it to somebody that don't have a thing layin' round like a prayer or a sweet sound
Give it if you've got it
Get it if you don't

Take my hand in the meantime
Let's walk into the sunshine
Everybody got something that they want to sing about, laugh about, cry about
It's true 
For me it's you

Monday August 6, 2012

I have been meaning to get on here and post an update, but I got distracted tonight by a bottle of wine and some good conversation with a friend.  Priorities, you know...

Today brought a good turn of events for me - after exactly four weeks and 28 infusions, my picc line was removed.  Woo hoo!  Everything is healing as it should and there is no sign of any remaining infection.  I will follow up again in one month with the oral surgeon.  When my mouth is done healing, we'll make a plan for some work to be done to replace my missing teeth.  Uff da, what a deal this has been!

Dan was home for 13 hours last night - just long enough to wash a load of underwear and re-pack the suitcase.  After a weekend spent up north golfing with the boys, he's now off to Nashville for a week long sales meeting with his company.  No complaints from him, though.  It's good to have a job, and it's even better to have a job you like.  And, in his absence, Erin and I are holding down the fort just fine.

I enjoyed catching up with my extended family at a gathering this past weekend.  Seeing my cousins who are headed off to college was fun, but, as with so many of these markers in time, it also brings our loss into sharp relief.

How can I be worried because, on the one hand, I don't want the loss of Shannon to always be the focal point and define me, and yet, on the other hand, I'm fearful that people will forget?  How can it be that I want to move forward and I want to remember the past at the same time?  It is a strange balance I am trying to find.

She has been gone seven months today.  I wear one of my Shannon shirts on the 6th of every month.  It's just my little thing that I do.  From me to her.  But, today, I got asked about it twice - once by the guy who drew my blood and then again this afternoon by the nurse who removed my picc line.  I guess it made me think - it you're going to wear it in public, you better be ready to share the story.  So, share it I did.

Sharing the story.  Is this really my job?  In some ways, it is.  I'm doing lots of work on the book this week.  Picture captions and possible book titles and book covers and advanced press write ups and author bios and, well, damn, it's keeping my head spinning.

I want to do right by Shannon.  I want to do right by all who have been along on this journey.  I feel an obligation and a duty to tell our story and sometimes - like today - I feel the pressure.  The book is another thing from me to her, but it's a big one.

So, I continue moving forward while looking back.  I guess that's a good thing.  If I was only doing one or the other, I'd be missing out.  Missing out on those sweet, dear memories, missing out on what's right here in front of me, right now, or missing out on the mystery of what the future holds...

"What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." - Helen Keller