Saturday March 28, 2015

Today is the day that Erin will swim with the dolphins. 3 months to the day since she was originally scheduled to do so.

The 13th Birthday trip 2.0 is happening - but not without one last hiccup.  Everyone arrived safely in Miami and they spent a day watching the beautiful people on South Beach.  Papa, Grandma and Erin were all excited to have their trip together.

But, when they arrived at the ship yesterday,  Erin was not allowed to board because their documentation wasn't complete - there was a permission form for minors to travel with someone other than their parents that we weren't aware of.  Norwegian Cruise Line seems to be the only line that has this requirement, so it slipped by the travel agent.  Dan and I were at the athletic club working out when we got the message that everyone was all right, but we needed to call the travel agent immediately.  My heart sank.

But, with the help of the business staff at the club, we downloaded the form, copied our driver's licenses, filled out and signed the form, scanned it, and sent it to the travel agent who got it to the cruise line.  We made it to our Blast exercise class, and they made it on the ship.  Uff da.

I talked to both Grandma and Erin once they were on board, and they were able to laugh about it.  Gwen says when Erin writes her book, there can be a whole chapter on traveling with grandparents.

Erin called Dan and I from the Sun Deck (makes me think of the Love Boat) where she was hanging out and tanning.  She sent us a picture of the soft serve ice cream machine and told us she plans to have several of those a day.  She sounded happy.

Now Dan and I have the whole weekend to ourselves.  We plan to spend it in bed ... watching our new 40 inch TV that we purchased yesterday!  This is excitement when you've been married 20 years - having a TV in the bedroom that you can actually see.  We watch so many sporting events and the little 27 inch screen we had wasn't working so well for our old eyes...

So, a little room remodeling project is underway.  The new TV led to re-arranging the furniture and the pet's sleeping quarters. We purchased a new dog bed for Sunny.  Sylvie has commandeered the other one, and Sunny is too nice to kick Sylvie off.  Today, we will tackle our lighting problem...

Miss Erin is out of touch until they return to port in Miami on Monday.  No cell service at sea, and spotty wifi.  Erin told us yesterday that she was kind of looking forward to disconnecting for a couple of days.  She can just enjoy the adventure and spend time with her grandparents.

We're grateful that Papa was feeling up to this trip.  He's doing all right, adjusting to his new normal.  He battles fatigue and his eyesight is very limited on the one side.  His life will never be the same, but hopefully there is joy for him this weekend, taking Erin on her adventure.

Life is unpredictable.  Flexibility is a must.  Survive the bad, enjoy the good.

Wednesday March 25, 2015

I am listening to Stephen Sondheim tunes as I write this morning. Hearing stories told musically soothes me. I think it would be fun to write a musical. Maybe in my next life...

The weather here in MN has put a damper on the golf season. 8 inches of snow on Monday meant school was canceled. Pretty typical that we got a tease of spring and then got dumped on. Living in Minnesota often requires patience and resilience.

Dan has escaped this round of snow as he is off on a golf outing with buddies down south. Glad he got his turn away.

Erin is up next. She leaves tomorrow for birthday cruise version 2.0. Erin gets to fly unaccompanied from Minneapolis to Miami tomorrow and Grandma and Papa Harkins will meet her there. They'll get a day on South Beach, and then board the cruise ship Friday afternoon for a trip to the Bahamas.

Papa is learning to live with the effects of his stroke - loss of vision and fatigue. But, he's excited to get to finish what they started with Erin last December. Different port, different cruise line, but Erin will get her wish to swim with the dolphins. And, they'll get this 13th birthday trip in just in the nick of time. Erin turns 14 April 10th.

So, Erin and Dan will be passing each other in the air tomorrow. Travel is something we all love, and I'm determined to do as much of it as we can while we can.

We continue to try and live in each moment, good or bad. Life is different without Shannon. I still deal with that every day.  I always will. Losing her changed the way I look at the world and made me focus on different things than I worried about before. It's still hard to accept that I am living a fuller life in some ways because of the loss of Shannon. I guess maybe you can't have that focus on what's really important until you are reminded of what it feels like to lose it.

There has been a series over the past few years on Minnesota Public Radio interviewing Bruce Kramer, a college dean who was diagnosed with ALS. He chose to share his journey publicly and I felt a real kinship to that, obviously. He did interviews with reporter Cathy Wurzer on an almost monthly basis and wrote a blog and a memoir titled "We Know How This Ends".  Bruce passed away on Monday.

Following his journey was just another reminder to enjoy what we have and stay present. Bruce recognized that no one knows "how long" but we can try to improve "how well" we live. I'm trying, every single day. Bruce offered these thoughts on how to live while dying:

"It isn't enough to work. It isn't enough to love my family. It isn't enough to connect with friends. It needs to be done with passion, abandon, love and light. There is no time to hold grudges, be artful and not forgive.  There is no time for games. There really are places to go, people to see and things to do, and time is wasting."  

Saturday March 21, 2015

Yesterday was a great day for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  Proceeds from January's sports banquet silent auction totaled $9,000 and the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission presented us with the check yesterday.

This community continues to support local youth and that support is helping our foundation pay it forward through our scholarships.  A big thanks to the RASC and to the people of Rochester!

Friday March 20, 2015

I write often about my relationship with Erin - how close we are, how special our mother/daughter bond is.  After losing Shannon, we chose to grow together instead of growing apart.  Thank god.

But, something special is happening with Dan and Erin, too.  The Mayo Girls Golf season started this week, and Erin is jumping on board with her dad's obsession with the sport.

Yesterday, we had our first outdoor practice at Eastwood Golf Course.  46 degrees and windy was not ideal, but our team - 34 strong this year - was out there banging balls on the range and chipping and putting.  Erin even got in 9 holes yesterday.

So, after 2 1/2 hours at the course, we came home for dinner with Dan.  Over dinner, we talked about golf.  After dinner, Erin and Dan went out to practice some more.  Dan gave Erin a chipping lesson, and she was still talking about it this morning.

It struck me that Erin and Dan are developing a bond now just like Shannon and Dan did with hockey.  Golf has become Erin's thing, and she shares that passion with Dan.  She respects his expertise, and he's thrilled to share it.  What a blessing.

Spring break is looming and after that, the golf season is a two month sprint to the end of the year.  Erin will have meets 2-3 times per week.  She is going to be crazy busy, but what a great way to spend your spring.

This is another one of those things that is different because Shannon isn't here.  I can't ever say something is better without Shannon, but if Shannon were here, a junior on the golf team, would there be room for Erin, too? Maybe.  Would Erin be in Shannon's shadow? Most likely.  How would Shannon handle it if Erin was better?  Not very well!

But, I shouldn't spend too much time on the what if.  I should focus on what is.  I've got a happy teenage daughter who likes her mom and her dad and wants to spend time with them, doing something they all love.  We will enjoy these days.

Sunday March 15, 2015

I am writing from 27,000 feet on my way home from California. The 3rd annual girls getaway was a rousing success.  

This year, my friends Kula, Sue, Kay and I vacationed in La Quinta, CA, just three miles from the professional tennis tournament at Indian Wells.  Our days consisted of coffee, playing tennis, lunch, pool time and then watching the pros do their thing each evening.  Not too shabby.

You name it, we saw them:  Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and, of course, we stalked Roger Federer on the practice court.  He is still beautiful at his advanced age of 33.

I've written here before about the importance of girlfriends in an adult woman's life.  I am grateful for this group of ladies.  They take me as I am.  They accept where I have been and root me on where I am going.

My friends changed after Shannon.  Some who were my friends no longer knew what to say to me, and they slowly faded away.  Some new ones entered, filling part of the hole in my heart.  And some friends stayed through it all.

This group of friends is the kind I can laugh with and cry with.  We laugh at each other, we laugh at ourselves, we laugh at the absurdity of life.  And we cry when necessary.  This group was all in when I said they had to put their Shannon shirts on in the 90 degree heat so I could get a picture.  This group of friends makes my life better and my burden lighter.

I know I'm headed back to real life - work and school and adding golf practice to the calendar this week as well.  That's ok.  I'm rejuvenated and ready.

Feeling grateful today.

Friday March 13 2015

It's Friday the 13th!  Yikes.  I have been telling people for years I was born on Friday the 13th.  But I just learned that was BS as I googled August 13, 1963 and it was a Tuesday. So there goes that story.

Hi folks, Dan here.  Jen is off on a girls tennis weekend (again).  I'm up for husband of the year (again).  Although, its early in 2015.  Plenty of days left for me to screw that up.

Beautiful sunrise in Rochester MN this morning - definitely more snow in Michigan where I was working this week.  Highs in Michigan were in the mid-40's.
Rochester MN Sunrise on Friday the 13th
I can hear maintenance workers blowing off greens on our neighborhood golf course - Willow Creek is planning to open 9 holes today.  This is a great day!  Traditionally, a day I would celebrate with great vigor.  Expecting sunshine and mid-60's through the weekend.  Ms Erin wants to go hit golf balls after school.  I'm in.

Ms Erin is also extremely pumped as the Rochester Mayo HS Girls Basketball team upset crosstown rival JM Thursday night to win a section championship.  State tournament is next week in Minneapolis.

The student section was rockin' to help the Spartans pull off the overtime win - Erin's voice is a little crusty this morning.  She was downright gleeful.  (As gleeful as a 9th grader can be at 6:50am)

I kept it to myself, but it's impossible to watch these moments without thinking about how pumped sister Shannon would have been celebrating her junior classmates hoisting the hardware.  (and an excused absence from school to be part of the student section at state next week).

I was careful to let Erin feel excited - she is embedded in this Mayo HS community.  She just loves it.

But Shannon is supposed to be here too.  It just sucks.  Certainly, explains why I am not quite as springy as I should be on this Friday the 13th.

Tuesday March 10, 2015

Oh, the sun does wonders for the spirit. We reached 50 degrees here in Rochester yesterday and they are predicting we might get to 60 today. Bring it on... golf season is coming.

This morning, I took Dan to the airport for a 6am flight, and now my brain is churning... might have to squeeze in an afternoon nap! Lots to do today before I leave town.

My regular group of Tuesday tennis friends is taking our show on the road again this year. We are headed out on our annual girl's trip, off to the desert to play and watch tennis.

The professional tennis tours are in Palm Springs this week as well, so we'll play tennis ourselves in the morning, then watch how it's really done in the afternoon. In between we'll manage some time to chat over coffee and wine.

So, today is a day to get all my ducks in a row, to make sure the pets and Erin are all covered for the 36 hours between when I leave and when Dan returns.

I've been getting some grief (in jest) for all of my traveling lately. 2015 is off to a good start. Atlanta in January, the Bahamas in February and now California in March. I guess it's good to be Jen.

Those people who have been giving me a hard time will be glad to know I have no plans to get on an airplane in April or May. (Did I mention we're going to Ireland in June?)

I've decided I want to go and do and see while I am here on this earth. This is our one go round, so make the most of it, right? I truly am grateful for good friends and the opportunity to travel. Combining those things together is a win-win.

Friday March 6, 2015

Erin and I have this new game we play in the car. We hook up a phone via bluetooth and then we put our iTunes library on shuffle and see who can name the song title and artist first. A modern day version of Name That Tune.

Erin is a savant. If she knows the song, she can name it in the first three notes. I only beat her if Jackson Browne or Crosby, Stills and Nash come up in the rotation.

This has made our early morning car rides to Mayo HS a little more enjoyable...

Erin has been having a tough week. She told me she's just sad, and she doesn't know why. This is a tough parenting dilemma for me. My fallback position is always, "of course you are sad about Shannon." But what if that's not it? Does everything we feel have to come back to that event?

I know I still think about Shannon every day.

But, Erin is navigating high school and all the emotions that go along with the day to day life of a teenager. Maybe she's sad about a grade or a friend or who knows... maybe it has nothing to do with Shannon.

And yet, everything seems to always come back to that. At least for me. The loss off Shannon.  It is the specter under which we live out our lives.

I am working my new job now and loving it, preparing posts for the Mayo Clinic News Network three days a week. Even that feels like it's because of Shannon. I mean, would I have become a writer if it weren't for our journey with Shannon? Most likely not.

I guess I have to accept that my life is the way it is now partly because of Shannon. Losing her changed me in ways I'm still learning about 38 months later. Is my new job a gift from Shannon? I guess I have to try to think of it in those terms. Maybe there is a tinge of guilt that I feel for having good things come from something so horrible.

And yet, isn't this better than the alternative? I could just say screw it and check out and curl up in a ball. I have to be confident that the best way to honor Shannon is to go on living.  Make a life for myself and Erin and Dan. I have to believe that's what Shannon would want for us.

It doesn't really get easier, though, it just gets different...

"Grief can't be shared.  Everyone carries it alone.  His own burden, his own way..." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Wednesday March 4, 2015

The scenery has changed a bit since my last post.  I'm currently 80 degrees colder than I was last Wednesday... uff da...

I'm not complaining, though.  Our getaway was wonderful and we were treated like royalty.  I've never had a 24 hr a day butler before.  And, each of us - me, Dan, and Erin - still have some travels yet to come this month.  I won't bore you with the details... we are feeling very lucky... and I get to go first with my girlfriends next week!

But, 0 degrees is still painful...

As Minnesotans, we know that once the calendar turns to March, we can start to dream about spring.  And spring around here means Mayo Girls Golf.  Erin and her teammates are counting the days.  Erin and some of her teammates have really been working on their games this winter.  Let's hope all their hard work pays off on the course.

I'm going to be able to help out again this year as a volunteer coach.  We had a coaches planning meeting yesterday, and we are ready to go.  Practice officially starts March 17.

We will have a big team again this year - 36 girls are signed up to date.  If you want to see controlled chaos, come to the driving range with 36 girls of varying ability!  I joke, but I love it.  And Erin does, too.

So, we just need the snow to melt and as soon as we can, we'll get out to the course and start preparing for the season.  We know that we will be out there in 40 degree weather, bundled up and trying to hit golf balls.  It's sort of a badge of honor for the girls.  Outsiders might think we're a little crazy.  Maybe we are.  But, spending time with these kids is so rewarding.

Anyone who thinks we are doomed because the younger generation is clueless needs to spend some time getting to know kids.  The loss of Shannon has given us a chance to connect with so many kids in different ways and different venues.  Give them a chance.  They may surprise you.

"Young people needs role models, not critics." - John Wooden