Saturday August 30, 2014

Erin is wasting no time getting her feet wet as a high schooler... literally...

Last night after volleyball practice she road tripped with friends (including a parent or two) over to Austin for the first football game of the season.  The weather did not cooperate - torrential downpours had them soaked before the game even began.

Erin didn't care a lick.

As Dan and I sat at home thinking how miserable she must be, Erin was loving every minute of being a part of the student section.  She came home saying "that was so much fun."  They wore garbage bags and cheered on their team.  Erin must have watched the game because she was able to recount for me who scored Mayo's touchdowns.  (Mayo notched their first win, by the way.)

So, what sounded miserable to us was a blast for her.  Ah, to be young again...

Erin is still sleeping this morning, taking advantage of her last few days of freedom. We will enjoy this final weekend of summer - a cookout, some golf, volleyball practice and Dan's fantasy football draft.

Then, come Tuesday, Erin will really be a high schooler.  It's such a significant life marker.  I am happy and sad at the same time.  This is our one chance for all these experiences.  Damn.

But, this is not about me, it's about Erin, so I will do my best to enjoy every moment.  I have no doubt Miss E will show me how it's done.

Happy Labor Day Weekend to all.

Wednesday August 27, 2014

The days of summer are slipping away now and the air temperature in the mornings and evenings certainly signals that fall is upon us.  One more holiday weekend and then it's back to the routine, especially for Miss E.  High school... wow...

We had fun this past weekend as Erin had a friend stay with us while her parents were out of town.  I have to admit, I didn't even realize that I missed hearing the banter that happens when there are two kids in the house.  It caught me off guard a bit.  How could I have forgotten what that was like...

It is a strange feeling - we all want time to pass and our kids to progress and everyone to move forward.  That is the normal pattern of life and what we all strive for.  And yet, as time passes, Shannon gets left further behind.  Maybe I am forgetting little things as the days go by.  How could I not?  I don't like that feeling.  As I listened to Erin and her friend chat, I tried to remember the sound of Shannon's voice...

Maybe it's the fall that's making me sentimental.  It's always a time of year where you take stock of where our kids are at, and send them on their way to the next level.  Easier said than done for me...

Maybe it's all the foundation work I've been doing lately that's making me think about Shannon.  We had our semi-annual board meeting this past weekend.  Exciting times now for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  Receiving our tax exempt status opens new doors for us on the fundraising front.  If you are interested, check out our new "Donate" button on the SOF website.  We have also added a store with our Shannon merchandise for those of you who don't have the opportunity to buy from us in person at our events.

Speaking of events, there are a lot of dates in the coming months where the SOF will be present.  HS Girls hockey on December 13th, Shannon Cup events in January, scholarship night in February.  We also have a new opportunity via the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission this year.  Proceeds from their annual banquet (Jan. 26) will go to the SOF.  So, our calendar is filling up with opportunities to fundraise and spread the word.   That feels good.

First up on the schedule is the annual Brains Together For a Cure walk on October 4th at the RCTC Fieldhouse.  This was the first event we ever took part in on our journey with Shannon, so we really hope we can have a group walk in honor of Shannon again this year.  Our plan, as always, is to wear our Shannon shirts and support the cause.  All money raised stays local to fund brain tumor research at the Mayo Clinic.  You can register here:

So, time marches on.  Exciting things are happening.  The calendar of activities begins again.  Fundraising continues.

And as always, we feel the pang of something missing.  That's good.  I don't want to forget.  Sweet Shannon.

Friday August 22, 2014

It's been a week of end of summer activities...

We said goodbye to Grandma and Papa Harkins as they left their summer home in Hayward and headed back to Nevada.  Grandma has plans to make it back for some volleyball and other grandkid activities in October.  I am grateful for my parents health and independence.  They are living their lives.  As it should be...

Dan has been traveling, no surprise there, and I have been putting in many hours on the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  We sent off three scholarship checks as our 2014 recipients are ready to start their college experience.  We have our board meeting this weekend, and we are prepping for another year of fundraising.

On that front, we finally received our long awaited news from the IRS:  after 19 months, countless hours spend on hold, and years off my life, we have been granted our non-profit status.  The Shannon O'Hara Foundation is officially a 501(c)(3) organization.  Wahoo!

So, big things ahead very soon from the SOF - we will be able to accept donations online and even have an SOF store for people to buy t-shirts, visors, etc.  We will be embarking on a capital campaign, hoping to get closer to our fundraising goal.  Stay tuned...

While that's been occupying my week, Erin has been busy as well.  She is in the midst of two solid weeks of volleyball practice.  Lots of time to get to know your teammates and work on playing together as a team.  To help with team bonding, tonight involves a team sleepover.

Tomorrow morning (Sat.) the entire volleyball program will be hosting a waffle breakfast fundraiser.  (If you are available, come to the Mayo HS cafeteria between 8am and noon to support Smiley and enjoy all your can eat waffles!)  So, lots of pre-season work to be done, but once school starts, it's game on - literally - as Erin and her b-squad play every Tuesday and Thursday night...

Speaking of pre-season work, Erin and I finished her school shopping yesterday.  The last two items on the list:  jeans and a homecoming dress.  We accomplished both, which was no small feat!  Actually, finding jeans to fit Erin's O'Hara sized legs (2 short, by the way) was much harder than finding a homecoming dress...

Yes, Erin is ready to be a freshman.  Her posse of girls plans to go to Homecoming together, with or without dates.  Perfect.  They are ready to be a part of the high school experience.  Erin doesn't seem to have any reticence about it, only excitement.  I am grateful for her independence, too.  You go girl...

Monday August 18, 2014

After a nice five day getaway, I am back home in Rochester, ready to resume my "normal" life.  It is good to get away, and it is good to come home.

Dan and Erin survived without me.  Things that needed to get done got done and Erin got where she needed to go.  They even managed to mow the lawn and do some laundry while I was gone.  I guess that means it's safe for me to leave again sometime, although Erin did say to me this morning over breakfast: "It's good to have you home.  We're a mess without you!"  I guess I know where I'm needed most...

My friend Teri and I had a great time watching tennis.  Getting to see Roger Federer play twice was just a bonus.  Any time you can watch a professional ply their trade, it's fascinating.  Roger is still the smoothest of them all.

We saw so many matches and so many different players:  Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Sloane Stephens, Andy Murray, John Isner, Gael Monfils... that's just a taste. Teri and I are absolute fanatics and we were both completely happy to spend 12 hours a day at the site, watching tennis.  In three days, we didn't go anywhere except our hotel room and the Linder Tennis Center.  Believe it or not, that exactly the way we wanted it!

When we weren't talking tennis, Teri and I talked about life.  We talked about kids and husbands and family and friends.  We talked about how it's sometimes messy, sometimes beautiful, sometimes confusing, and always interesting.  We talked about the what ifs, what might have beens, and the what is.

We talked about Shannon.

On Saturday night, we went out for dinner in downtown Ann Arbor.  It is a happening place with a great college town vibe.  The University of Michigan was even holding an open practice for the public to come see this year's football team.  It was being held at The Big House - Michigan Stadium.  It's an iconic venue in college sports, so Teri and I couldn't resist.

It was a beautiful night and a beautiful venue.  Being on the campus and seeing college kids fired up about life was cool.  And sad.  I don't know if it's the change of seasons, the start of a school year, the thought of kids going to college... but something triggered in me a sadness for what could have been. For Shannon.

Teri listened to me talk, and cry, about the curveball life threw me.  Teri knew Shannon as a toddler/preschooler/kindergartner before Teri and her family moved away.  Teri reconnected with Shannon by visit during Shannon's cancer journey and even spending time with us on the shores of Lake Michigan during Shannon's last summer.  Teri knew Shannon's spirit and knew that she would have loved an experience like sitting in that stadium, feeling a part of something bigger.

And yet, that isn't what happened.  So, we adjust our expectations.  Just because Shannon didn't get to experience that doesn't mean I can't talk about how much she would have enjoyed having that experience.  Maybe that's a way of keeping her spirit alive.

Yes, life is unpredictable and messy and confusing.... and beautiful.  I enjoyed my little getaway. We laughed and cried and connected.  I try to remember to be present in each experience and share it with those I love.

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced." - Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday August 14, 2014

Life is good for team O'Hara right now.  A quick synopsis:

Dan turned 51 yesterday.  He celebrated by working in Flint, MI.  Nothing but glamour out there on the road.

 I celebrated his birthday by flying to visit my friend, Teri, and then heading down to Cincinnati for the pro tennis tournament taking place there. We have three days of watching our favorite players.  We've already seen a little bit of Federer and we will get to his full match tonight.  We'll also get to see Rochester's own Eric Butorac play doubles tonight against the Bryan Brothers.  We''re just about to head over to the courts for 10 hours of live tennis.  Its shaping up to be a good day.

Erin has had a good week, too.  She had schedule pick up on Tuesday, so now it seems really official:  she is a high schooler.  Wow, how did that happen?  This week also brought volleyball tryouts which are now complete and Erin landed right where she'd hoped - she made the B squad this year as a setter.  Perfect.

I was feeling a little guilty about leaving town during the tryouts, but Erin handled the pressure fine, even without her mom around.  Good for both of us.  (It helped that she is staying with her "second mom", Kula.  No matter what happened at tryouts, Erin was in good hands!)

So, a successful week. Things are falling into place for a good fall for Erin.  Dan is busy and engaged in his work.  And me, well, I am on vacation doing something I love with a dear friend.

No complaints from here...

Saturday August 9, 2014

We are back on Willow Lane after a beautiful week at the lake.  Beautiful in more ways than one...

Yes, we had beautiful weather and played beautiful golf courses.  But the best part of the week was how much fun the three of us had together.   I never could have imagined after losing Shannon that we would find as much joy and laughter in our lives.  Man, we laughed a lot on this vacation...

Our rhythm as a threesome gets better all the time.  Erin is thriving and we are along for the ride.  We really do enjoy being together and we have developed a level of understanding about where we've been and where we are going.

At the lake, we feel so close to Shannon.  So many good memories and more quiet time to reflect on them.  And seeing her rock - looking at her name each day as we enjoy ourselves - helps us remember.  We even took a family selfie... Sunny and Shannon included:

Dan and I discussed our stage in life over coffee each morning while sitting next to the Shannon rock.    Work is good for both of us.  This week, Erin gets her high school schedule and starts volleyball practice.  Time marches on, but we are making the most of it.  We remember and honor Shannon, but our lives do go on.

I have no doubt that Shannon would want it that way...

Tuesday August 5, 2014

Time for an update from Lake Hubert...

Things have settled down on the medical front for me.  Thank god/buddha/mother nature... Dan said, "I can't believe you blogged about that".  Just keepin' it real, folks...

Dan arrived safely from Pittsburgh with tales of tough golf courses and old school money.  He likes my new car, by the way.  He's trying to talk me into letting him drive it home from the cabin on Friday.  No chance.

The first part of our week here has been filled with beach time, lake time, and trips to Nisswa for Rafferty's Pizza and ice cream at the Chocolate Ox.

Miss Erin had quite a day yesterday:  waterskiing for the first time, a round of golf at the Pines (where she broke 100 - her new goal each time she plays) and then a sleepover with her friends Hallie, Anna, & Megan at their cabin just a few miles away.  

Getting Erin up on waterskis yesterday was fun for all of us.  She was so determined.  We all remembered back to the day when Shannon felt the same way.  The summer of 2011, post diagnosis, Shannon wanted to get up on waterskis in the worst way.  With help from our friends the Gustafsons down the beach, she did it.  And once she was up, she wasn't satisfied, trying to go out of the wake, pushing herself.

Check out this post I wrote on August 22, 2011, almost three years ago now.  Shannon's skiing video is there.  Yesterday, I shot this video of Erin.  Eerily similar:


Same boat, same friends, same determination.  Same attempt to push the envelope and go outside the wake.  On the same side even. Same scream from mom.  Wow.

I can't be up here without thinking about Shannon.  She loved this place.  Erin does, too.  Doing my best to remember the past, but enjoy the present.  And the present is full of laughter and joy.

On today's docket, a round of golf at The Classic.  It might be the prettiest course up here in the Brainerd area, and they definitely will be the biggest greens Erin has ever seen.  Should be fun.

Life is good at the lake...

Saturday August 2, 2014

As I sit here and write from Lake Hubert, I feel myself finally settling down from what has been a crazy few days.  This may take me a while, so bear with me...

First, the good stuff.  I said goodbye to an old friend this week - traded in Ol' Bessie, my trusty minivan with 219,000 miles on it.  It was time.  I just decided on Thursday that I was ready.  So I went and bought myself a new car.  (New to me, anyway :)  I went and did it all by myself.  DanO hasn't even seen it yet!

Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but I am a 45 year old stay at home mom who hasn't had an income to speak of since Erin was born.  So, it took some balls (excuse my French) for me to go and test drive and negotiate and make a good deal for myself (I did).  I qualified for my own loan - no husband needed - and now I am the owner of a sweet 2010 Lincoln MKX crossover.  It's exactly what I wanted.

So, I was all fired up to load up my new car and head to the lake yesterday morning.  One problem - my girl part problems were rearing their ugly head once again... argh!  Men... if you are not up to hearing about the female menstrual cycle you may want to skip these next few paragraphs...

What started like it might be a normal period (the first normal one I've had in a while) turned into something kind of scary.  I've never experienced anything like it.  So, instead of heading to the cabin yesterday morning, I was headed to WFMC to find out what to do next.  Two things to deal with:  in the short term, how to stop the bleeding.  In the long term, to find out if this is tamoxifen related... or age related... 45 is on the cusp of the beginning of the end, if you know what I mean.

We are dealing with both of those problems through medication.  In the short term, I am taking transexamic acid.  It was approved by the FDA in 2007 for use in cases of irregular uterine bleeding.  I had never heard of it before, but the ob/gyn explained that the military used it in battlefields to help stop soldiers from bleeding out.  Yikes!  He assured me that my dose taken in pill form would be much less potent than that...

As far as long term - we need to find out if the tamoxifen is at the root of these problems.  The only way to determine if it's the tamoxifen is to stop taking it.  Dr. Pruthi ordered me to do just that, and we'll see what happens.  If things normalize, then we can attribute it to the drug.  If they don't, then I have to accept that me and my uterus are getting old.

I am hoping things normalize very quickly and I can put all that behind me and enjoy a relaxing time at the lake.  Dan is on his way from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis to Nisswa.  We should see him tonight by midnight.  Can't wait to see him... and show him my new car...