Thursday July 31, 2014

Once again, we survived an anniversary with help from our family and friends.  Shannon's birthday came and went, but not without those we love acknowledging it.  Messages and flowers and a walk around the reservoir added some salve to the pain I was feeling.  The eagle soared over head as we walked and talked about Shannon.

Our threesome spent that afternoon looking at a potential new car for me.  (Not a new car, but a used one that would be new to me :)  Ol' Bessie, my trusty minivan, is about ready for pasture.  219,000 miles and counting.  Hopefully she's got one more trip to Lake Hubert in her, because that's where we are headed tomorrow.  Time for a week at the cabin before the rush of pre-school activity begins.  Volleyball practice starts August 11.

Dan will be delayed a day on arriving up north because he's on a customer golf trip to four of the nicest courses in western Pennsylvania.  Today takes him to Oakmont, which has hosted more US Opens (8) than any other course.  The US Open will be there again in 2016.  For someone who is such a golf geek, it doesn't get much better than this.

So, life is good.  As we talked about cars and golf this morning, Dan reminded me of the days in our first house when we would get our measly paychecks and try to make the money stretch to pay the bills and have a little money left over.  Now he's playing US Open courses and I'm looking at luxury SUV's.

Truth is, we were happy then, and we're happy now.  A good reminder to appreciate life - wherever you are at on this particular day.  

"It is not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday July 29, 2014

I remember the days on this blog when we would write out our pain.  It hasn’t been that way much lately, as we carry on with life and do our best to survive and even thrive in the aftermath.

But today is full of pain.  Shannon would be 16.  I feel cheated.  

Erin should have a big sister.

Dan and I should get to watch Shannon grow up.

Everybody deserves the chance to be 16.  

Oh, no doubt Shannon would be taking her drivers test today.  She’d be so beyond excited.  I can’t even picture it.  Would she be taller?  Could she even reach the pedals?  She’s frozen in time, 13 years old…

It physically hurts today, the pain in the places where Shannon should be.

I watch her friends growing up, heading into their junior year of high school.  They are not kids any more, as they drive themselves to the places they need to go, and begin to think about college and what comes next.

I try really hard in this space to keep things in perspective, to share with you the triumphs as we carry on.  Today, I can’t find those encouraging words.  It just plain sucks and you can’t convince me otherwise.  There are no platitudes that will work today.

I know this will pass and we will be all right.  But today is a rough one. 

Happy sweet 16 dear Shannon.  You deserved so much better… 

Saturday July 26, 2014

We have been exhausted this week, feeling an emotional let down from Monday's golf event.  It really was a great day.  The hours spent putting it together are all worth it when you see over 100 people out there supporting the cause.

People dressed in lime green, people opening their wallets, people smiling and feeling good about doing something good for others.  It's a wonderful reminder about how to live, how to make a difference...

Dan and I talked about how many new connections we have in our lives since the loss of Shannon. Deeper connections filled with empathy and love and support.  It truly is a gift.

Of course, now that the golf event is over, I'm already thinking about our next events... Brains Together For a Cure walk... Shannon Cup hockey tournaments... 2015 scholarships...

I can't help myself.  It's how I operate - look ahead, start planning, drive myself a little bit crazy by overthinking things, then it all works out in the end...

But, I'm going to try and set those preparations aside and enjoy the next two weeks.  We've got Shannon's birthday, then a trip to Lake Hubert.  Summer is flying by...

I've had two friends lose their fathers this week.  Not unexpected in either case, but still hard.  I had some interaction with another man who is dying of kidney cancer.  Reminders all around to enjoy what's here and now.  Stay in the present.  Do good while you are here.  Don't worry about things beyond your control.

I wanted to share with you a poem that I received this week from my friend Mary Ann.  It's a beautiful reminder of how to live.  These words remind me of someone...


Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and the colour of your skin will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?   How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought but what you built.
What will matter is not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence but your character. 
What will matter is not how many people you knew but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those that loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
- Anonymous

MGG Swings for Shannon

Our 2nd Annual MGG Swings for Shannon golf event is in the books:

112 golfers
33 volunteers
50 hole sponsors
90 prizes
$12,000 raised for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation and Mayo Girls Golf

Absolutely amazing...

Today we are exhausted and proud and humbled by the love and support from family, friends and community.  Everyone who played yesterday had some connection to Shannon or her story.  All of these generous people help us carry on her spirit.

Thank you.

Sunday July 20, 2014

This morning involves coffee, toast, and the British Open.  Watching golf makes us want to play golf.   Luckily, that's our plan for the afternoon.

Golf has been on our brains with our MGG Swings for Shannon event coming up tomorrow.  Lots of preparations this week: 80 some raffle prizes collected, 50 tee signs printed, 28 teams registered, new SOF visors and t-shirts ready to go.  We've had a lot of help from great volunteers, and we're looking forward to a special day.

Shannon has been on our minds, too.  Almost everyone who is signed up for our golf event has some connection to our journey.  Many of them knew Shannon personally.  Those who didn't, know her story:  there's the eye doc who helped us find her diagnosis, there's the parents of one of our scholarship winners, there are foursomes filled with our family and friends...  The support is amazing, and it helps us to carry on.

July is Shannon's month.  We are just 9 days away from what should have been her 16th birthday. Shannon and her friend Anna share a birthday week.  In fact, tomorrow Anna turns sweet 16. Anna and Shannon had plans to always celebrate their birthdays together.

Anna was up north this week, and she made a stop at the O'Hara cabin to keep her promise to her friend...

Wednesday July 16, 2014

Erin and I made a quick trip to Wisconsin to visit Grandma and Papa Harkins this week.  The weather didn't cooperate - it felt more like October than July - but the trip was still worth it.  We made the most of our short time together:  golf, burgers at a local saloon, game night, a little shopping in Hayward, and plenty of laughs.

Erin is a joy to be around.  Of course, Grandma would say that no matter what!  That's a running joke in our family... Erin told us on the golf course that Papa and I were there to give her constructive criticism, and Grandma was there for positive reinforcement.  That's pretty close to the truth...

Miss E and I talked on the drive up about our relationship.  Our mother-daughter dynamic feels pretty special.  I feel lucky that we are so close.  So does she.  I can't imagine if my only child didn't like me...  We talked about how we've developed this kindness, this gentleness with each other, because of what we've been through.  We both know we are closer now than we would have been if Shannon were still here.

That's such a strange thing to feel, to know on the deepest level that something is better now than it would have been if Shannon hadn't died.  I don't know how to articulate it, exactly, but I know it's true.

It feels good and awful at the same time.

Can I be happy about something that came about as the result of losing Shannon?  Is that OK?  It feels like a form of survivor's guilt.  A part of me still feels like being happy isn't acceptable.

But, Shannon would want us to be happy.  When her tumor recurred, she specifically told Dan and I that we need to be there for Erin.  She knew that she wouldn't be.  I just need to accept that Erin is here, we are close, and that is a gift.  How it came to be that way was beyond my control...

So, I will enjoy these days with Miss E and trust that Shannon is with us as we carry on...

Saturday July 11, 2014

How has another week flown by?  I hate it when the good stuff goes by really fast.

I have had a really positive week on the work front.  New projects are ramping up and that means more hours for me.  Heck, yesterday I had work meetings from 10 until 3.  Almost like a real person!

Seriously, though, I am enjoying being engaged and working with our team of people.  It's such a good fit for me in my life right now, that I hesitate to talk about it because I don't want to jinx it.

Erin had a good week, too.  Lots of volleyball open gyms, a golf tournament, and a day of biking to get her where she needed to go because her taxi driver - I mean mom - was not available.  (Just to be clear, my lack of availability on this particular day was not work related, but golfing with my friends related!)

Dan's week was not perfect - he's been struggling with an earache ever since wake boarding last weekend.  No infection, just water and pressure that makes his head hurt.  Hopefully things pop this weekend as he is prepping to fly to Nashville on Monday for a week long sales meeting.

On Thursday, Erin and I played golf with Erin's teammate - and Shannon's friend - Megan. Shannon loved Megan and once referred to her as "my quirky friend".  I only say that because I think Megan would take it as a compliment.

It is heartwarming and gut wrenching to see Shannon's friends growing up.  They are all driving. Some have boyfriends.  They are juniors now.  Unbelievable.

Despite the fact it's sometimes painful, I'm glad we've chosen to stay in touch and connected with those girls that were there for Shannon on her journey.  They remind us of Shannon, and we like that.

Hanging out with Megan was fun for all of us.  Dan got home in time to join us for the back nine, and we laughed a lot.  There was nothing gut wrenching about this interaction.  I just have to believe that Shannon is smiling down on her quirky friend, happy to see her hanging with Erin, laughing with us, and growing up.

Shannon is front and center in my mind as we continue preparations for the Mayo Girls Golf Swing for Shannon event coming up on Monday, July 21st.  When I wasn't working or golfing this week, I was working on this event.  It's a chance for us to give back and raise funds for MGG and the SOF.  Our event is bigger and hopefully better this year than last.

I have to believe Shannon is smiling about that, too.

Monday July 7, 2014

This morning started with an emergency... a dead coffee pot.  Luckily, the crisis was averted by a quick run to Caribou, and now Dan and I can commence with our day's work.

We had a lovely holiday weekend spent with family and friends.  First, Grandma and Papa Harkins spent some time here.  We golfed and went out in downtown Roch for dinner, and even took in the fireworks from a friend's deck high above the city.  Did I mention that those friends weren't even home?  Might have been a little presumptuous of us, but their house had the best view, and we now try to live in the moment... just to be clear, we did ask them if we could use their deck.  We're not that presumptuous!

Saturday, we hit up some other friends for boating on Lake Pepin and a barbecue at their condo.  Erin and Dan tried wake boarding.  I stuck to my guns and continued to be a chicken.  Erin got to hang out with her buddy Ariana and catch up on life.  Good stuff.

Erin has a busy week ahead - golf tournament today, then volleyball open gyms the rest of the week.  Wednesday, I am not available to drive her around, so she is going to get where she needs to go on her bike.  She has been using her bike as a mode of transportation to visit friends without relying on me to drive her around.  I think she likes the independence and freedom.  At 13, you don't want your parents to know everything...

This week, I am adding a couple new projects to my web consulting work.  I'm excited to branch out even more into some other areas.  And, I have to admit, it is nice to have a paycheck coming in that I earned.  Say what you want about the value of being a stay at home mom - something I would never give back - but earning a little money is nice.  As I told Dan, now I have my money and we have your money!

In all seriousness, life is good at Casa O'Hara.  We are all enjoying our summer.  We are all grateful for the friends and family who continue to support us.  We've got fundraising work ahead in the next two weeks in preparation for the Mayo Girls Golf Swings for Shannon tournament.  The list of volunteers continues to grow as people want to help the cause.  Amazing.

We continue to feel lucky in so many ways.  It's still hard to reconcile sometimes, but our lives are rich and full and each day we learn a little more about carrying on without Shannon.  I think we surprise ourselves sometimes.  How can we be happy?  How is that possible after losing her?  But, it is true that you compensate and carry on and find meaning, and even joy, in the life that you have now.  We don't forget, but we do go forward.

I know I've shared this quote before, but it seems appropriate to do so 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

Thursday July 3, 2014

As I write this morning, I am very patiently waiting for the IRS to answer the phone.  I am on hold with the exempt organizations hotline, but there is nothing "hot" about it.  Estimated wait time - 30 to 60 minutes.  Current count: 9 minutes and 36 seconds...

Our first application was received way back in February of 2013 and we've been fighting through red tape ever since.  I continue to call every month or so to check in and see if our application has been reviewed yet.  It is an excruciating process.  Everybody and their brother wants to start a non-profit these days - approximately 60,000 applications are received each year by the IRS.

But, the good news is we can continue to "act" as a non-profit while this process is happening.   And, we've got a big fundraiser just around the corner - Mayo Girls Golf Swings for Shannon is less than three weeks away now.  It is fun to see the teams that are signs up to play.  Coach Myhro and I met this week and we talked about how much this event means to us.   It's personal for sure, and it's worth the work that goes into it.

We've got some new SOF products coming - visors and a new t-shirt - so that will be fun to debut at the event.  It is heartening to see the support that our friends, family, and community continue to show.  Last year this event was a big success, and that allowed us to give out an extra scholarship last winter.  We will be sending out those scholarship checks next month.  That makes wading through the red tape worth it.

So, the holiday weekend is here now and we will enjoy some time with family and friends.  But, not before I get someone to pick up the phone... 28 minutes and 35 seconds... and counting...