Tuesday April 29, 2014

What a weekend it was for us - volleyball, water park, shopping, eating, drinking...  3 days of fun in the Wisconsin Dells.  Erin's Southside Juniors volleyball team finished their season by going 7-1 in the tournament and winning the Silver Bracket championship.  It wasn't easy...

They had to wait around all day on Sunday - 6 hours between matches! - and finished it off around 8:15pm Sunday night.  So fun to see the girls fight through some tough matches - their last three matches all went to a deciding third game, and they managed to pull it out each time.  Fun to see them compete and work together as a team.  A great way to end their season.

It was a fun weekend for the parents as well.  We are definitely at the stage where the parents of your kid's teammates become your friends.  It's a great group of ladies (and men) and oh, did we laugh a lot this weekend... mostly at ourselves!

On Saturday, the girls had the afternoon off, so we agreed to take them to the water park for a few hours.  The moms - some of us more middle aged that others - had to decide if we were wearing swimsuits or not.  Back and forth we went, finally deciding that we would suck it up (literally) and put our suits on just in case...

Ha!  Three hours later the moms were soaking wet and losing our voices from all the screaming we had done.  Water slides and wedgies and one ride that acted like a toilet bowl...  I am still laughing about that one three days later!  Let's just say, we were definitely not acting our age.  Our kids were watching us go down the slides and rolling their eyes.  It's always good to let them know we are human, and we are allowed to have fun...

Now, it is back to reality.  Dan is off to Michigan, Erin is grinding through her school days, and, guess what?  I am working.  Reedbrook Consulting has been hired for a project - a blog for the Cardiovascular Education Department at the Mayo Clinic.  It will be a steep learning curve for me, and I'm going to have to start using some underutilized brain power that I hopefully still have.  This is my first chance to prove myself - to Reedbrook and to Mayo.  Exciting and scary, but I'm ready.

One thing that isn't going our way right now is the weather.  Erin's golf meet was rained out yesterday, and today's meet is definitely in jeopardy.  That would make it three rain outs in a row.  Miss E had that one taste of competition and now she is eagerly awaiting her next chance.  We just need this low pressure system to move on out.  Once that happens, they will be playing golf meets just about every day to catch up!  It's going to be a fun month of May.

It will be a sprint from here to the end of the school year.  The end of our Willow Creek days.  Erin is ready.  I guess I am, too...

Friday April 25, 2014

Well, Mother Nature has put a damper on the golf schedule this week.  Two days of rain meant no practice and no meet for Erin yesterday.  She made good use of the afternoon off... by taking a nap.

She needed to build up reserves for the weekend ahead:  after golf practice today, we will head to the Wisconsin Dells for the last spring volleyball tournament.  It should be a fun one with all the older teams from our club (15's, 16's & 18's) competing.  The schedule calls for volleyball games all morning tomorrow, then the afternoon/evening off to enjoy a little waterpark action.  Dan is going to make the most of the afternoon off, too, scheduling a round of golf with the other dads.  As for us women folk, well, we'll think of something to do to occupy ourselves...

Sunday, it will be back to the volleyball court and they will keep playing into the afternoon/evening until they lose.  I hope Erin doesn't have any homework this weekend, because she won't be "home" to do it!

After all that, Monday will bring the next opportunity to play golf.  The Stewartville Invite is Monday, right here at Willow Creek Golf Course.  Literally Erin's home course.  Dan and I are hoping that the weather cooperates (the forecast doesn't look good) because we could both get a chance to see her play.  Hell, we could follow her around on our very own golf cart!

So, that's what's up for team O'Hara for the next few days.  Lots of positivity in our world.

Things are good on Willow Lane...

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Yesterday was a big day for Miss E.  After a few weeks of qualifying rounds and many cold days on the golf course, she earned a spot to compete in yesterday's meet.  Not just a spot, but a spot on the varsity.  We have a group of girls that will rotate between the bottom of the varsity and the top of the JV.  Yesterday, it was Erin's turn.

She was excited and nervous all day.  So was her mom.  Playing along side her teammate, Sara, and two girls from John Marshall, Erin handled herself well.  She hit a great drive off the first tee with everyone watching.  If you're going to be a golfer, being cool under pressure is a bonus!

E shot 51 on the front nine and 62 on the back for a 113.  Pretty dang good for her first 18 hole round carrying her bag and having to finish in the cold and the dark about 8:15 last night.

Her score was 5th best on the Mayo team and 8th out of 12 overall.  She's already determined to make her score "count" at some point this year.  (The lowest four scores for a team count in the team score.)  E missed that by 6 strokes yesterday, so she's not too far off.  And, she's already talking about things she can do better to bring her score down.  She is one determined kid.

OK, I know I'm going on and on about one little golf meet, but for me, it was more than that.  Erin is moving beyond Shannon in so many ways now, and it's going to be that way from here on out.  She's further along in school than Shannon ever was, and now she's reached a spot - competing for Mayo - which Shannon had only one brief opportunity to do.  Things are progressing now as they should in my child's life, and that is different for me.

Thank goodness Erin and I have an open and honest relationship.  We talked about Shannon and how she might have handled the ups and downs of 18 holes.  Let's just say that Shannon was a little more of a hot head than Erin, and that usually doesn't work so well when playing golf!

In so many ways, Erin's life carries more weight now for all three of us.  She knows it and accepts it.  We never want her to feel added pressure and we're doing our best to let her find her own way and be her own person.  But, the reality is that parents always compare their children's experiences to each other.  It's what parents do and it's a tricky proposition when one of the children dies at a young age.

In many ways, Erin is carrying on for all four of us.  She knows and accepts that, too.  She is an amazing kid, and it is fun to be having "normal" high school experiences this time around.

Over breakfast, Miss E got the news that she's in the varsity lineup again for tomorrow's meet in Winona.  She's pumped.  So is her mom.

Easter Sunday

Dan, Erin and I are looking forward to spending this day together.  Church, brunch, and a round of golf are on the agenda. That sounds good to all of us...

It has been a crazy busy week for everyone - and it's only going to get crazier.  So, a day at home - together - is just what we need.

Here's what's ahead:  between now and May 1st, Dan will sleep in his own bed three times.  During that time, Erin will have 4 golf meets and a weekend volleyball tournament in the Wisconsin Dells.  I will be there to help them both through this busy stretch.  It's what I do...

I have the time to help them, because my writing job has continued to be put on hold.  The WFMC sometimes works at a snails pace.  I definitely pulled the trigger too early in announcing that I was going to work...

But, it's going to happen.  This week I did get my photo taken for a Mayo Clinic ID tag and I even have business cards now, so that must mean I'm legit!

So, we are moving along.  Days like today that are wrapped in faith and religion are more difficult for us now.  Hard to accept "the miracle" when we wanted so badly to have a miracle of our own.  My thoughts about God and faith are sometimes murky.

But, the community of people who hold you up when you need it is what matters.  The shared experience of navigating pain and suffering and coming out the other side.  The human experience.

Happy Easter everyone.

April 15, 2014

Three years ago today everything changed.  A demarcation day that will forever define a before and after for this Rochester MN O'Hara family.

For me, April 15 will always be harder, more poignant, than January 6 - the day Shannon went to heaven.  1095 days ago we were told by a Mayo Clinic neurologist that our daughter had an inoperable, incurable brain cancer.

I have since learned that millions of people walk around carrying the weight of a calendar date that forever will mark a before and after.  It's amazing how many of us are out there.

Three years ago today Shannon and Erin's childhood innocence was ripped away from them.  Three years ago today Jen and I were awakened to a world of love and support we never could have imagined.

We don't need to circle the date on the calendar.  We will never forget.

Friday April 11, 2014

I'm up this morning feeling grateful.  It could be because I have a suitcase packed with clothes that are suitable for playing tennis, walking on the beach, and lounging around.  Me and my girlfriends are headed to the airport shortly.

But, really, I'm feeling grateful for the people in our lives.  We didn't have much of a birthday planned for Erin - golf practice and then cake and ice cream once Dan got home from Michigan.  So, when I mentioned to my friends, who are the mothers of Erin's friends, that they could all surprise Erin and join us for cake, well... we ended up with 20 people and a full blown party with presents and all!

Erin was surprised and happy.  She told me and Dan last night, "I feel loved."  She is.

So, Dan is in charge for the weekend.  Erin has a bowling party tonight, a volleyball tournament tomorrow, homework on Sunday, and school and golf practice on Monday before I get back.

Dan and Erin rarely get time alone together, without the taskmaster around, so really, I'm doing them a favor by heading out of town... wink, wink...

Happy Birthday Erin!

It's finally here - the day that Erin turns 13.  She's been a teenager - in all the good ways - for a while. Dan and I are thankful for her every day.  She has navigated some choppy waters already in her young life and we couldn't be more proud of the young lady she has become.

Love you, Miss E!

Tuesday April 8, 2014

I'm having one of those weeks where I can't seem to get organized...  One post it note doesn't get completed, so it's list gets transferred to a new post it note where other items are added to the to do list.

Or, if I don't have a post it note handy, then I use Siri to put a note in my phone calendar with a reminder alert.  So, randomly, I will get a "ping" and when I look at my phone is says "toothpaste" or "bank".  

I hope this isn't a sign that I'm getting older...

Perhaps it's just that I'm trying to stay ahead of things this week.  We've got Dan on the road, Erin having golf practice every day and still playing volleyball in preparation for a tournament this weekend, but before that, she has her birthday on Thursday.  Yes, on April 10th, Erin will FINALLY be a teenager!

We've been teasing her for months it seems.  Erin told us a funny story about the boys at school giving her grief.  Whenever she offers an opinion or a thought, they will say, "shut up, you're twelve."  It sounds meaner than it is... Erin laughs about it.

If I start looking beyond that, things get exciting for me - I have a great girls weekend planned.  Three of us are headed to visit a fourth friend on Jekyll Island in Georgia.  Tennis, wine, food, conversation... get up the next day and repeat.  I'm pretty excited.

But, it's only Tuesday.  Still work to be done.  Better go make a list...

Friday April 4, 2014

The three amigos have all returned to Willow Lane and we will spend the rest of our Spring Breaks together... in a snowstorm... ugh.  Thank goodness for the Athletic Club where we will head today for some exercise and activity.  Cabin fever on April 4th is a big bummer...

Erin has been catching up on her sleep these past two nights.  She was due after 5 straight days of constant activity.  Her trip was a great time.  In New York, she got to explore some new areas - Little Italy and Chinatown - and see some familiar sights as well - Central Park, a Broadway show, and Top of the Rock.  I am grateful for the chaperones willing to herd 220 kids through Times Square!

E still absolutely loves New York.  It will be interesting to see if the big city is a part of her life someday... But, that's a ways off - she will finally turn 13 next week...

So, all is well on Willow Lane.  I survived my time alone.  It was too quiet, but I gave myself permission to just sit with the silence, the emptiness, and just feel some sadness.  It may sound strange, but I think it's a healthy exercise from time to time.

I sat (with a glass of wine) and looked at Shannon's things.  Some of her schoolwork that I've saved.  Her keepsakes from various trips we took.  Her hockey jerseys and photos.  It was nice to conjure up some memories of her when I was missing her so.

I have to give myself permission to do that, to revisit the past since there is no future for her.  The sadness over that was brought into sharp relief this week with Erin off on her adventure.

Grief is cyclical.  The loss of Shannon will be with me forever, and sometimes I just have to ride the wave off the bottom until I can breathe again.

"You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.  But this is also the good news.  They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up.  And you come through.  It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly - that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." - Anne Lamott

Tuesday April 1, 2014

I am home alone, trying to enjoy the silence.  I find myself listening to music (currently The Lumineers, Avett Brothers, Rusted Root, and Of Monsters and Men) to fill the air that is void of conversation.

I do have to say I'm very happy with my decision to stay home from Fargo, though.  Dan arrived safely, but shortly thereafter roads in the area were closed.  It's a full blown blizzard up there - schools are closed and driving is treacherous.  I teased Dan that he must really love his job.  Truthfully, when your sales guy drives through a snow storm to keep his appointment with you, well, that says something.  Dan is good at what he does.

My other spring breaker had some weather issues of her own.  The 8th graders spent two days in Washington DC in a driving rainstorm.  Erin said that it was raining - pouring - every time they went outside.  Erin and her crew toughed it out, though, and made the best of it.  Erin was especially moved by Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum.  

We've been getting a nightly phone call from Erin with details from her day.  Yesterday was a good one - they finally got some sunshine and they took their show on the road:  leaving DC, busing to Philadelphia for the day, and then on to NYC in the afternoon.

Erin and her friends had planned to wear Shannon shirts on the day when they would be in all three cities.  The latest entry in our "Shannon Shirts Around the World" comes from Erin's crew in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia:

Emma, Erin, Olivia, Katie, Althea, Emily, Jolie
The lighting in this picture is pretty cool.  Makes me feel like Shannon is there with them and it takes away a touch of the sorrow I feel about Shannon missing out on this opportunity.  It's still a struggle in my mind and my heart.  As Erin travels new territory, literally and figuratively, it's hard not to think about Shannon.

But, Erin is happy and that makes me happy.  She has such a good bunch of friends who are kind and supportive.  A group of teenage girls who have each other's backs and, as a mom, I'm grateful for that.

My spring break is slightly less exciting than Dan's or Erin's.  I did organize some closets and drawers yesterday and I might even tackle a few more today.  Trying to make myself useful with a little nesting.  (Dan reminded me the last time I nested I was pregnant!)  

It's very quiet around here, but Sunny the Wonderdog is keeping me company.  We're doing alright...