Thursday January 30, 2014

It's been a week of connections for me.  So many people responding to the WCCO piece on Sunday and the nice Post Bulletin article about the scholarship night on Monday.  I've received messages from dear friends and from people I've never met.  It is a strange world in which I live now...

The support continues to amaze us.  Saturday night at the hockey rink, there were friends there just to support our cause, to support us.  I will be forever grateful for these connections ,and I can't imagine my life now without these people.

There was a great op-ed piece by David Brooks in the NY Times a couple weeks ago.  It's about how to be there to support people who have been through tragedy.  It's one writer's take on a blog written by a victim of tragedy.  Both the piece - and the blog - are worth a read.  Find them here: NYTimes - The Art of Presence

I connect with so many of the ideas in the article, but after this weekend, the concept of firefighters and builders really stuck with me.  The blogger, Catherine Woodwiss, distinguishes between two types of people who help you survive trauma:  firefighters and builders.  Firefighters are those people who can drop everything and jump into the fray with you immediately after trauma.  Builders are those people who will help you reconstruct your life, bit by bit, over the long haul.  You need both to survive.

As I watched those friends who came to support us on Saturday,  I realized we have a lot of builders in our lives now.

Another concept that Woodwiss shares is that healing is seasonal, not linear.  I've talked about this before, but she says it better:  "In the recovery wilderness, emotional healing looks less like a line and more like a wobbly figure-8.  It's perfectly common to get stuck in one stage for months, only to jump to another... only to find yourself back in the same old mud again next year."

I think that's why the giving of the scholarships last weekend felt so good, and yet left me with a pit in my stomach that I can't shake.  It's so good and so wrong at the same time.  I don't think I'll ever be able to completely reconcile that feeling.

This is not to take anything away from what we are trying to do in Shannon's memory.  We are absolutely sure that this is the best way to honor her while doing some good.  The WCCO piece was very well done and told our story in a touching way.  Our scholarship winners were happy and proud and honored.  This is all good stuff.  What more could we ask?  But... there's always a but...

Catherine Woodwiss sums it up: "In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma.  The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on.  So will you."

Saturday January 25, 2014

Wow, wow, wow.  What a night.  We are humbled by the support of our community and our hockey friends once again.

Tonight we received $500 donations from the Mayo Girls and John Marshall Boys Hockey programs. We had received one for the same amount from the Century Girls earlier this year.  So very cool to have these high school programs support us in this way.

Thanks to a great fundraising year, we were able to give not just two, but three scholarships tonight.

This year's winners of the Shannon O'Hara Memorial Scholarships are: Katie Aney from Century HS, Bethany Gibson for Mayo HS, and Sam Broman from John Marshall HS.

It was truly a joy to interact with these kids and their families tonight, and they accepted the honor with such pride.  We couldn't ask for more.  It's a way we can honor our girl, and that feels good.  (FYI - after receiving the Shannon scholarship, Sam scored two goals in tonight's game!)

I have to give a shout out to Erin - she spent 8 hours playing volleyball today, hustled home to shower , dress, and put a smile on her face to go and honor her sister.  She's a beauty inside and out.

If you haven't had enough of us, you can tune in to Rosen's Sports Sunday tomorrow night on WCCO-TV.  A reporter and photographer came down a couple of weeks ago and hung out with us for the Shannon Cup.  The story will air tomorrow night on Channel 4 after the 10 o'clock news.

We never intended this to be our life, but we do intend to hold our heads up and do what we can do while we are here.  For Shannon.

Wednesday January 22, 2014

Can we all agree that January has been a rough one?  I know I'm feel in' it.  The combination of absolutely awful weather and a busy schedule of Shannon events has me running on empty...

Earlier this week, I did a radio interview with a talk radio host in La Crosse.  It's still my mission to share our story - even if it is difficult and even if it leaves me feeling worn down.  As I've said before, I can't imagine not sharing it, so this is what I do.

If you are bored at work, you can listen to the podcast.  I'm on starting around the 42 minute mark:

We are really looking forward to this Saturday's SOF event.  We are combining two events into one - the Mayo Girl's Shannon Night, which was canceled due to bad weather, will be run simultaneously with our Scholarship Night.  So, at Saturday's JM vs. Mayo game at Graham Arena there will be fundraising events (including the ever popular chuck-a-puck), a donation check presentation from the Mayo girls, and we will announce our 2014 scholarship recipients.

Our SOF Board of Directors met this past weekend to choose our scholarship recipients and we definitely had our work cut out for us.  We had 21 applicants this year - double our total from last year - and we feel honored to read these essays and get to know these kids.  Don't worry, people, there is hope and promise in these future leaders.

So, we are excited to announce this year's recipients this Saturday and we hope to have a big crowd there to celebrate with us.  The support of this community has been amazing, and we hope you can come and enjoy the fruits of that labor.


SOF Scholarship Night presented by Mayo Girl's Hockey 
Saturday, January 25th - 7:30pm - Graham Arena  
JM vs. Mayo Boys Hockey Game

This is all such good stuff, but it came from something awful.  During these cold, dark days of January, I have trouble letting go of that sometimes.  All of this is happening because Shannon is gone.  It's a tough thing for me to reconcile sometimes.

But, as I've said before, this is the best option available to us.  Honor her spirit, and do some good in her memory.

We hope to see lots of familiar faces Saturday night...

Saturday January 18, 2014

I think I can, I think I can... We are finding satisfaction and exhaustion this week as we carry on with Shannon Cup events and start to focus on choosing this year's scholarship recipients.  Sometimes I still have to take a step back and say, "Is this really my life?"

I spent the day standing at a table, sharing my story with random strangers who are in town for the Shannon Cup.  Moms from all over Minnesota - towns like Buffalo and St. Cloud and Cottage Grove - are here watching their daughters play in a tournament named for my daughter.  It is a little surreal, still, two years later.

I see the looks those moms give me - some admiring what we are doing, while some wonder how I can be standing there, smiling and conversing.  They buy books and t-shirts and give me strange looks.

I understand why some look at me sideways.  Should I be laughing and smiling?  Are you ever allowed to do that again after your child dies?  People who have not been there cannot imagine it. They don't want to think about going through something like that.  But, here I am, standing in front of them, forcing them to do just that.

I guess I need to stay confident that whatever I feel, it's ok.  I am allowed to smile and laugh again.

Dan and I also find that putting our story out there allows others to share.  One of those moms today talked to me about losing her mother to brain cancer.  And we met yet another family who lost a young daughter to leukemia.    So, despite the sideways looks, every so often someone connects with the story, and that makes it all worthwhile...

We are having another successful fundraising weekend, so, I can take the strange looks, knowing that the end result is worth it.  Tomorrow our board of directors will meet to discuss the scholarship applicants.  Thanks to those moms from Buffalo and St. Cloud and Cottage Grove, we will be able to give out two scholarships again this year in Shannon's memory.

Yes, this is my life, now.  Running the foundation, still remembering, still making progress, still trying to make sense of it all...

Girls Hockey Game Cancelled

1/14 - Tonight's Mayo Girls Hockey game has been cancelled due to the weather.  Hopefully we can re-schedule Shannon night.  I'll keep you posted...

Monday January 13, 2014

We are home and tucking into bed after being on the go for the past 72 hours.  All good stuff...

These past three days have involved scholarship applications (reviewing them), a Shannon Cup tournament (raising another $1300), an extensive interview with WCCO (more details later), a volleyball tournament (7 consecutive hours of ass sitting), school, work, and we finished it off with Spartan Night tonight.

Spartan Night is a chance for the incoming freshman class to hear about clubs, activities, sports, and, oh yeah, the classes they can take during their HS career.  Yes, we will have a high schooler next year.  Finally.

I have some mixed emotions going on, but I see the excitement in Erin and I am reminded that this is not about me.  Suck it up and be there for Erin, helping her find her way as she enters the next stage.  She's going to do great.  I know the next 4 years will fly by.  Erin and the class of 2018 can't wait to get it started...

The next 72 hours will include more work, more school, Shannon night at Mayo Girls Hockey (Tuesday 7:30pm at Graham Arena), a little chat on the radio Thursday morning (10am on KROC 1340) and then a book signing Thursday evening  (7:00pm at Barnes & Noble Apache Mall).

If we're still standing after that, we will head back to Graham Arena on Friday for the next installment of the Shannon Cup.

So that's the week ahead.  All stuff we signed up to do.  All for the greater good.  Just keep plugging away...

Thursday January 9, 2014

We are slowly creeping out of the Polar Vortex.  That was as rough a stretch of days as I remember.  Dan, Erin and I found some dark humor in a news story on Monday.  See, the first Monday after the holiday season is known at Blue Monday and research has shown that it's the most depressing day of the year.  This year, that day not only had a high temp of -14, but it fell on the 6th.  You have to laugh, and cry, about that one...

But, we survived the cold and the anniversary by spending the day together.  Erin wanted to look at old photo albums.  There are some precious images in those pages.   Allow me to share just one:

Speaking of photos, we are trying something fun this year - Shannon Shirts Around the World.  We love it when we see people wearing the various Shannon shirts that have been produced over the past three years.  So, we thought we'd take it to the next level and see how far and wide those shirts go.  So, take a picture someplace cool and send it to us.  Here's a link to the page on the foundation website so you can see where they've been so far:   

Now, we must press on with the work that needs to be done.  There is much going on with the foundation over the next few weeks, so here's the update:

Sat. 1/11 & Sun. 1/12 - 14B level Shannon Cup - Graham Arena
We will be at Graham Arena Saturday from 5-9pm and Sunday from 8-11am with t-shirts, hats,         books and even coffee mugs for sale. 

Tues. 1/14 - Shannon Night at Mayo Girls Hockey - Graham Arena - 7:15pm
Anyone wearing a Shannon Shirt or an RYHA jersey can get in to the girl's game free.  Fun events like chuck a puck and a chance to go on the ice to shoot and win a signed copy of Determined to Matter.

Thurs. 1/16 - DTM Book Signing - Barnes & Noble, Apache Mall - 7:00-8:30pm 
On the off chance you don't have the book yet...or come buy a copy for a friend!  Please, please somebody show up...

Fri. - Sun. Jan 17-19 - 14A level Shannon Cup - Graham Arena
Once again, we will be hanging out at the rink all weekend, selling our goods.  

Sat. Jan. 25th - Scholarship Night - JM vs. Mayo Boys - Graham Arena - 7:15pm
We will be awarding this year's recipients on the ice during the boy's game.  Come out and see which boy and girl receive this year's $2000 Shannon O'Hara Memorial Scholarships.

So, I guess I'm in sales mode today.  We continue to need support as we attempt to build the SOF fund to our goal of $100,000.  We're 40% of the way there...  This should be a big fundraising month for us and a chance to give out those scholarships again.  We are excited about that.  We hope you can join us.

January is almost 1/3 over.  From where I sit, that's a really good thing...

January 6th

Two years.

Dan and I talked last night about how we are getting used to not having Shannon around. How that's good - because we are coping - and bad - because we are forgetting what it was like to have her here, present in our daily life.

Of course, she is not forgotten.  Shannon is in our thoughts each and every day.  This, too, is both good and bad.  It is where she lives now, in our memories, and that helps us carry on her spirit.  But thinking about her every day is exhausting, too.

We received a book on Christmas, a compilation of thoughts on grief by C.S. Lewis.  One passage has really stuck with us:

"Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection:  the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.  I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

This is a difficult thing to articulate, but Lewis does it as well as anyone.

Dan, Erin and I will spend today together.  Schools are closed all across Minnesota today due to the extreme cold.  A couple of friends told us they think a little angel might have had something to do with there being no school on January 6th...

So, today is a day for remembering.  Remembering Shannon.  Remembering how she touched our lives and changed us forever.  Remembering the importance of carrying out her wishes and doing positive things in her memory.  Remembering the silver linings and the new and stronger friendships the came as a result of our journey.

If you can, take a moment today to remember our sweet, sassy girl gone much too soon...

Saturday January 4 2013

A bumper sticker sighting this week; "My next life is going to be normal"!

I am feeling grateful this morning.  Can't shake the feeling.  Even though Sunny woke me at 6:15a to poop.  Even though the wind is loud as the impending arctic blasts approaches.  Even though I have to go to North Dakota this week on business (I doubt anyone is going there for pleasure these days).

Our house is cozy.  The coffee is strong.  I have candles burning.  Jen and Erin are still snoozing (with her business done Sunny took my spot next to Jen).  There is not much on the agenda for the next few days.  Our fridge is full of potential.

Two years ago, I would not have thought this possible.  But I am feeling pretty good today.  God bless.