Saturday March 29, 2014

Dan and I are practicing being empty nesters this weekend...

We put Erin on a bus at 1:30 this morning which has already taken her to Minneapolis to catch a flight to Atlanta, and then on to Washington DC.  She - along with 220 other 8th graders - will be arriving in our nation's capital in the next few hours to begin 5 days of action packed sight seeing: DC, then Philadelphia, and finally on to NYC.

Erin may be the youngest kid on the trip, but she's pretty sure she can handle it.  She didn't even want Dan and I to get out of the car to say goodbye!  She's traveling with three of her best buddies, and I have no doubt they will have a great time.

I expect that I will have many selfies sent to me over the next 5 days.  It's already begun...

We talked this week about Shannon's 8th grade year.  Erin and I talked about it while we were shopping, and Dan and I discussed it after dropping Erin off.

Truth is, we never even considered Shannon going on this trip.  Maybe she didn't want to, maybe she knew deep down that it wouldn't be possible, maybe we were too protective to even consider it.  It turned out we didn't have a decision to make, because Shannon didn't make it to spring break.

When Erin asked to go on this trip, we said yes right away.  We never even considered saying no.  That's our new normal.  We are doing our best to give Erin opportunities to engage in the world.  She deserves it.

So, Dan and I will hang out together this weekend and we've already got big things planned - we need groceries and dog food and maybe even some new frying pans.  Pretty exciting, eh?

I tease, but Dan did invite me to go on spring break with him on Monday.  He's headed to... Fargo. As tempting as that sounds, I think I'll stay put...

Wednesday March 26, 2014

I shared this article on social media yesterday, but it's worth repeating here - Shannon's cells, which were donated to St. Jude, are helping make a difference.  She is a part of this research, just as she wanted.  It's nice for me and Dan to have another chance to be proud of her.

Improving treatments and finding cures is a long and arduous process.  We are realistic.  There is no magic bullet.

But, every scientific breakthrough moves us closer.  Someday maybe the outcome will be different for kids like Shannon.

Check it out:    USA Today:  After losing kids, families hope to further research

Sunday March 23, 2014

It is good to be home, on my couch, watching some NCAA basketball.  It has been a a whirlwind of activity and emotion, and we are ready for some "normal" days.

My grandma's funeral was a beautiful tribute to the woman she was -  loving, caring, and fiercely loyal.

An added bonus was the chance to re-connect with my aunts, uncles, and cousins and reminisce about memories.  It was a reminder of the best parts of being from a big family.

My mom's brothers - all 8 of them - touched us by choosing that memorials to my grandma be given to the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.

Attending a funeral will always bring a flood of memories.  While it's hard, in some ways it's a connection to Shannon, and we're always looking for those.

We returned home Friday in time to do some laundry and some homework in preparation for spending the next two days at Erin's volleyball tournament.  8 matches total, some wins and some losses, lots of fun watching her play.  And Smiley was smiling the whole time.

So, after a week of family, we spent the weekend with friends.  We are supported and loved.  We are lucky.

Wednesday March 19, 2014

My grandma passed away yesterday at the age of 87.  It was a peaceful ending and she didn't suffer.

We will begin gathering tomorrow in Faribault - my mom and her 8 brothers, their spouses, my cousins, and our children.  Lots of people, lots of stories, lots of laughter and tears to be shared.  It will be a celebration of life, and we will ease each other's pain as families do in these times of sorrow.

It's sad, of course, but not tragic.  She lived a good life.  She gave her time and energy to her family and to the Catholic Church.  She loved and was loved.  That's what matters.

Jeanne Irene (Chapple) Davies
10/5/1926 - 3/18/2014

Sunday March 16, 2014

It's been a week of frustrations for me, with one big reminder to not sweat the small stuff.

The frustrations have ranged from lost car keys (eventually found but not before I managed to set of the alarm, which then caused the battery to disconnect, which then caused the check engine light to come on) to a job that still hasn't begun.  Yes, I wrote a couple weeks back about being excited to start a new endeavor.  Well, new projects as Mayo often get pushed back when more pressing things arise.  So I continue to wait.  The woman who hired me assures me it will happen, and that this is a common refrain - "It's the Mayo way - delay!"

So, I not so patiently wait...

This week brought one big reminder about what really matters.  I went to visit my grandma on Friday.  She's been in the hospital in Faribault for a week, and things aren't improving.  The decision has been made that she will return to her apartment and begin hospice care on Monday.  My mom has flown in, and will be by her side.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma in my youth.  My grandma had 9 children, with my mom being the oldest and the only girl.  I am the first grandchild, born less than 5 years after my uncle Fran.

So, our family sort of all ran together.  My mom's brothers leading into me and then 14 more grandchildren to follow.  The next generation - the greats - started with Shannon and now numbers 13.

Grandma loved each of us with all she had.  She always looked for the good in her family, almost to a fault:  her boys could do no wrong in her eyes, and trust me, they weren't always angels!  Grandma felt the same about her grandkids - we were all lovely, even when we weren't.

I found myself reminiscing with my uncles and looking through old photos the other night.  I found one of my favorites - four generations.

Me, age 12, ready to be the junior attendant in my uncle Jeff's wedding, with my mom, my Grandma Jeanne, and her mom, my Great Grandma Irene.  Funny aside that tells you something about the women in my family - Irene didn't want to be called Great Grandma because that made her sound old.  So, we called her Grandma Great instead.  She liked the sound of that.

My mom is probably not going to be pleased with me sharing this photo.  For those of you too young to remember, the perm was all the rage in the early 80's...

My Grandma believes that she is going to heaven to be with Grandpa and her own parents.  And one of her greats.  Maybe she and Shannon can get to know each other better.

The idea of my mom sitting vigil with her mom on home hospice has certainly stirred some emotions for both of us.  She remembers all too well me doing that for my daughter.

It's different with someone who is 87, though.  It's appropriate.  It's her time.  The circle of life moving as it should.

I hope for a peaceful, easy passing for my grandma in the coming days.

Tuesday March 11, 2014

I just finished playing tennis with my girlfriends this morning.  It always makes me feel good.  Not just the physical activity, but the camaraderie. We run around and chase a little yellow ball...and we laugh.

Too often in this world we are looking for reasons to chop each other down.  Especially women.  We can be mean and envious and catty.

For someone like me, there's just no room for that in my life.  And, the people who are in my life know that.  They have shown me there best sides.  My girlfriends know what I have been through, and they are always looking to lift me up, not put me down.

I wish we could all remember that everyone has a past.  Everyone will meet hardship or pain or loss.  We should all receive the benefit of the doubt.  We should all be looking to lift each other up.

That's my soapbox moment for today.  Not that you asked for my opinion, but I guess today I am giving it free of charge!

Practice kindness.

"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon will be too late." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday March 6, 2014

26 months... Dan and I did the math today.  26 months without Shannon.  It still doesn't seem real sometimes...

Erin was having a bad day yesterday - she didn't want to talk and she was short with me and Dan.  Why?  Who knows.  We always have this "thing" that we carry with us.  Maybe Erin's mood didn't have anything to do with Shannon.  Or maybe it had everything to do with it...

We'll never know what we would have been like if life had carried on in a normal manner.  We all were changed - and damaged -  by the loss of Shannon and sometimes, even 26 months later, it's hard to determine what's making us sad or mad.  

It is a constant battle to let go of what we thought would be and accept what is.  

In my bereavement support group, there are families at different stages of this journey.  Some are newer on this path than me, but some have blazed the trail in front of me.  One thing I've found - it's never over.  This is how we live from here on out.

While that sounds daunting, there's comfort in that, too.  We don't have to get over it.  We never will. Whatever we feel, we feel.  And whatever that is, it's ok.  No one suffers the loss of a child and "gets over it".  It changes your world and changes who you are.

When Erin's having a bad day, my mind wanders to Shannon and wonders if something set Erin off.  A memory... or a mention of siblings... or maybe it was just annoying middle school boys!

Erin woke up this morning and she was fine.  Kids are resilient.  Adults, less so.  I've been thinking about Shannon a lot this week.  High school golf registration is under way.  That was Shannon's one chance to be a Mayo Spartan.  Another one of Shannon's good buddies got his driver's license this week.  How fun it would have been for her to be tooling around town with her buddies.    

So many thoughts about my girl.  Missing her still.  Always.

Sunday March 2, 2014

Yes, March is here... that's progress even if the temp outside doesn't feel like it...

We made progress on other fronts this week including meeting with a banker to work on a potential re-financing of our house.  We're hoping to go to a 15 year mortgage.  Dan would be 65 then and I told him if our house was paid off, I'd let him retire.  He didn't think that was funny.

So, despite the temps outside, we are feeling positive around here.  Erin is enjoying her last free weekend for quite some time.  The next three weekends involve volleyball tournaments and the end of March will bring her much anticipated 8th grade Spring Break trip to Washington DC/Philadelphia/NYC.  Much to look forward to for Miss E.

Dan's been so incredibly busy in his professional life.  This is a good problem to have, but it's still a problem when there's more work to do than hours in the day.  That's why he is sitting across the table from me on this Sunday morning, working on follow up from last week.

For me, progress was made in the form of getting a job!  Sort of -  I've been hired by a consulting firm to assist in the re-design of a website for a department at the Mayo Clinic.   Ultimately, I will be doing some editing/writing of the content for the site as well as looking at the overall layout and what makes the most sense for usability.

I'm excited and anxious to get started, but it's a bit of hurry up and wait.  I have to get approval to access the site, and the World Famous Mayo Clinic sometimes moves at a snail's pace.  I am trying my best to be patient.

This is just one project and it will probably only take about a month.  But, my hope is that this is just the beginning of these type of opportunities.  You only need to take one look at my Candy Crush progress - I am on level 430 - to know that I need to start doing something more productive with my time!

So, hopefully this week brings me an opportunity to put my skills, and my brain to use.  Now that would be progress...