Monday June 30, 2014

It's Monday morning and that means I survived my birthday.  I turned 45 yesterday.  Erin asked me, "Do you think your life is half over?"  Uff da... Most likely so...

I'm trying not to think about that, though.  I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:  "The good thing about the future is you get to live it one day at a time."

So, don't worry about your life being half over.  Get up today and do something.

So far today, that something involves taking my husband for a root canal.  I am his driver so that he can be under sedation.  Dan doesn't love the dentist.  Erin and I were giving him some good natured teasing last night.  He deserved it after saying, "this is my last supper before I go under the knife."  Oh, the drama...

We have such a good vibe going right now for the three of us.  Dan and I try to remember to step back and give thanks that Erin is turning into a fine young lady and that she still enjoysDan and Erin did a nice job of spoiling me yesterday - brunch, then a round of golf, and a good nap.  Dinner was steak and crab legs, followed by cake.  And, I didn't have to do ANY of the dishes.  Well done, family.

My mom & dad also sent me a sweet card with some old polaroids from when I was a baby.  Two things I noticed - I was a chubby baby and my parents were young.  Check out that 1970's facial hair!


I think they've been feeling a little nostalgic knowing that their daughter has reached midlife.
We will get to spend some time together this week as Grandma and Papa Harkins are coming to Rochester for the 4th of July holiday.

So time marches on.  One day at a time...

Thursday June 26, 2014

I am writing this morning from my lime green adirondack chair, sitting next to Shannon's rock at Lake Hubert.  Dan is in the new cabin, finishing the work we've been doing all morning - new carpet was laid yesterday and we've spent the past few hours putting things back together.  Erin is unaware of our productivity, sound asleep in a bed on the porch of the old cabin.

It's been a wonderful week on many fronts - Erin played in her first Jr. PGA event, made it to volleyball open gym, and hosted 7 friends for a bonfire.  Dan had good productive meetings before heading north to manage the project.

I had some training on new aspects of my own job.  I am feeling so fortunate to have this opportunity to use my writing skills and expand my knowledge.  It's a wonderful fit for me and I like the team of people.  It's nice to be engaged and using my brain for something other than writing about myself!

Yesterday wasn't a great lake day, so we made the most of it by playing golf.  We took Erin to The Pines yesterday - Marsh to Lakes for those of you who've been there.  That might be my favorite course.  So many good memories for me and Dan.  We used to sneak on there and play 9 holes back in the days when we were dating and broke.  20 plus years ago now.  Wow.

We all hit some good shots and some bad ones.  Erin and Dan made birdies.  None for me, dammit.  Our threesome laughed a lot - mostly at each other.  At one point Dan told Erin, "This is the hole where your mom and I fell in love."  She showed the appropriate level of disgust for that comment.  We rounded out the night with a burger and fries, and a stop at the Chocolate Ox for ice cream.  Not too shabby for a Wednesday in June...

So, being here brings us good vibes.  So much for which to be grateful.  And yet, as I sit here next to Shannon's ashes, I can't help but spend a moment thinking about what we've lost.  That's never going to get easier, I don't think.  So many memories of her here, too.  How she didn't like to put her feet in the sand when she was a toddler.  How she and Erin would swim for hours on end, no matter what the water temp was.  How one of the things she wanted to do in her last summer was go to the cabin again.

So, we carry on, carrying her with us.  Things are not as we thought they would be, but life is good.  We are grateful.

Saturday June 21, 2014

I am enjoying some quiet around the house this morning.  Erin is off volunteering at a local environmental event - "The Pollination Celebration" - and Dan is out becoming one with nature... on the golf course.

It's been a crazy, busy week for us.  Erin spent 5 days at volleyball camp, 8 hours a day, and still managed to fit in a golf lesson and a bike ride with friends.  Play hard, sleep hard seems to be her MO.

Dan traveled to WI and back, while I spent a great deal of time this week prepping for our upcoming golf tournament.  (Shameless plug - MGG Swings for Shannon, July 21, 2:00pm shotgun at Eastwood GC.  Still looking for a few more teams to play!)

Dan and I actually played in a golf scramble yesterday.  This, too, was a memorial fundraiser for the family of local man taken way too young by non-hodgkins lymphoma.

It was a beautiful day and we had a great time.  What made it even better - several people along the way acknowledged Shannon, and our own loss.  Dan and I were quite surprised by that.

Maybe it was the setting - a memorial event can certainly open people up.  Maybe it was the beverage cart - sometimes that helps people loosen up and say things they might not say under normal circumstances!

Whatever it was, we appreciated each interaction, each acknowledgement.  Everybody has stuff.  Everybody suffers loss in their lives.  It's so much better to say something - even if you fumble for the right words - than to say nothing at all.

Sometimes people worry that they are going to bring up old wounds, or that you might not even be thinking about it.  Truth is, you are always thinking about it.  When you suffer a tragedy, it just becomes a part of you.  Even if it's not an active thought, it's always there.

So, my armchair advice - acknowledge it.  Most people who have lost a loved one want to talk about it.  A little kindness goes a long way in this world...

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break." - William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Wednesday June 18, 2014

It's been a week since I've written - a week of frustrations, big and small:

Burnt toast...internet challenges while trying to work... managing schedule changes... and a dropped watermelon.  Did you know, if you break the watermelon's fall with your big toe, it won't completely explode on the garage floor? Trust me on that.

Those all fall into the small category.  The bigger category involves my body.  I had a procedure done on Monday to remove a uterine polyp that's been causing me problems.  Full anesthesia, a quick 20 minute procedure, and that's that.  Except it's not.

I spent the past two days waiting for the pathology report.  I got good news today - the cells are normal.  Phew.  I had myself convinced that it might be otherwise.   It's over now, but the anxiety was real.  Lots of mental scar tissue for this gal.  I do want some credit, though - I had gone all of 2013 without needing anesthesia!

I am laughing now, but it's been a rough few days.

Life is always going to present challenges.  I'm coming to understand that in a different way as I grow older.  The sand under our feet is ever shifting.  How you deal with it, well, that's the key.  Finding peace and contentment takes work.  Some days it's harder than others.

Trust me on that, too.

Wednesday June 11, 2014

As I drove home last night, the full moon was shining brightly.  When the moon lights up the sky, it always makes me think of Shannon and her final days.

I have had some Shannon moments lately.

Yesterday at the Athletic Club, I passed a girl wearing a Shannon shirt.  She looked up at me and smiled.  I have no idea who she is, but we connected anyway.

I've been working on the upcoming golf tournament this week, so that brings lots of thoughts of Shannon as people generously donate to the event.  Things are shaping up to make it a great event.  Shannon still brings out the best in people.

We received a note this week that one of the Post Bulletin teen columnists wrote about Shannon.  It's in today's paper.  It's beautiful.

But, my biggest Shannon moment of all happened yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned out our garage.  I needed to get all of our golf stuff organized now that we have three serious golfers in our house.  (Erin is obsessed, by the way.  She played 30 holes this past weekend, and she's set up for a lesson tomorrow!)

While cleaning out what is now our golf paraphernalia space, I came across Shannon's roller blades.  What to do with those... So, I stuck them in the basement, hoping I could find someone who would use them.

Then, yesterday on Facebook, a friend posts this:

Roch peeps:  I need used roller blades.  (Well, *I* don't need them, but a couple daredevils at my house do!)  Do you have any in your garage?

Is that a sign or what?

So, Shannon's blades went to a happy home.  Just a few hours later, my friend posted a follow up note:  her daughter was zipping up and down the sidewalk on her "new" blades.

Perfect.  Shannon would be happy.

Middle School

Nothing makes people turn their nose up like saying "Remember junior high?"  Most people recall those years as an awkward stage.  Hormones beginning, more homework, new expectations about responsibility, and the sometimes desperate need to fit in or, stand out.

Life was simple in elementary school.  You knew all the kids in your grade, and the teachers gave you that touchy feely kind of attention.  The leap to middle school brings new kids into the mix, more than one teacher, and higher expectations.

It's bad enough you have to do it once, but then you get to re-live those years through the eyes of your children.

My parenting of middle schoolers comes to an end today.  We've made it, encountering bumps and valleys and life changing events that taught us so much about ourselves - and about others.

Shannon loved middle school.  She was so eager to be a good kid and a good student and her teachers loved her.  We were skating through middle school until she was diagnosed in the spring of her 7th grade year.

But, Shannon managed to continue enjoying middle school even after her diagnosis.  She was still eager.  It's one of the things she wanted to do with the time she had left - go to school.  She wanted a normal experience, and her classmates and teachers did their best to give her that right until the end.  Kids that age can be so cruel to each other.  We were lucky to have the opposite experience.  The kindness of Shannon's middle school friends and classmates is something I will never forget.

Erin hasn't loved middle school.  Sure, she's made wonderful friends and had some wonderful teachers.  She avoided any real girl drama, but middle school has provided her some challenges that you wouldn't wish on anyone.  A lot of things - even some of the schoolwork - just seems less important after what she's been through.

Erin's 6th grade year started with the whole school knowing that her older sister, an 8th grader, was sick.  Erin missed an entire month of school when we went to Memphis.  She fell behind in math and frankly, I didn't have the capacity after Shannon passed to be as diligent as I always had been.  We were living day to day and if Erin was struggling with factorization or variables, well, it didn't seem that important.

I haven't been as diligent ever since.  Erin would admit that.  She's been given leeway and freedoms that I never would have allowed Shannon to have.  Has Erin taken advantage of that?  Yes, but in the best possible way.

Erin has learned how to get the work done, but not let it consume her or stress her out.  She has learned how to cope and persevere under the worst possible circumstances.  She made good friends and was liked by her teachers.

Thank goodness Erin is a smart kid.  She got through.  No, she more than got through.  She learned those math skills along with coping skills and life skills and became her own person.  It's going to be hard to throw Erin a curveball that she can't handle.

So, it all began with a helicopter mom and an innocent, wide eyed, first-born who was eager to please.  Today it ends for my pragmatic only child with an old soul, and her hopefully, wiser and gentler mom.

We both made it.  I think we're ready for high school...

Tuesday June 3, 2014

Erin's golf season came to a close yesterday.  The Spartans reached their goal of making it to the second day of Sections.  Miss E struggled yesterday, but she doesn't let that get to her.  It wasn't the finish she hoped for, but she really exceeded expectations this year and reached all her goals, including earning a varsity letter. 

While it's tough to end with a bad round, she and I had a funny text exchange after she finished:

A few things to note: 

1.  Erin changed her contact info in my phone so that she appears as "Erin Fave Child" with a pink heart emoji.  She thought it was dorky that I had her in as "Erin O'Hara", like I'd forget which Erin she was.
2.  She wanted me to know that her day didn't go as she'd hoped.  She texted me, not the other way around.  Even if she's growing up, she still needs her momma.
3.  She loves me.

So, golf has ended and now just four more days of middle school.  Life is moving along as it should for Erin Fave Child.  I'm grateful for that each and every day.