Monday April 27, 2015

The sun is shining and it doesn't feel so much like a Monday today. Maybe it's because we had a productive yet relaxing weekend. Maybe it's because have a fun week ahead.

We reached another milestone this weekend... Erin beat me on the golf course. Over 18 holes, she was better than me by 3 strokes - 94 to 91. She didn't rub it in too much... I gotta get out there and work on my short game, or this will be a regular occurrence!

Truth be told, I am happy about it. The hard work she put into improving her game is paying off. She broke 90 for the first time last week in a meet at Red Wing. Today she is off to Northfield for a triangular with Mankato West, and Wednesday she will play in the All-City meet at Soldier Field here  in Rochester.

Erin is learning some real life skills juggling school, golf, volleyball and her social life. She spent most of Sunday doing homework for the week ahead, knowing she will be missing classes for golf. Learning time management and how to prioritize tasks is a great skill to have.

Of course, as her mother I feel I have to bug her about getting things done, and yesterday, I kept asking her about whether she had finished each assignment. She was annoyed at my hounding. Hey, kid, just doing my job...

Dan and I plan to play hooky this afternoon and take a drive to Northfield to watch her play. We are lucky that Erin doesn't mind having us around. Many kids ban their parents from watching them golf, saying it makes them too nervous. Erin is used to having us around - it's a running joke around here that she is "smothered" by having all the attention of both parents now.

But Erin understands our need to hold on and cherish these moments just a little bit more than might be "normal". Our loss of Shannon made us truly appreciate watching Erin grow up, and we want to be there for all of it. I can't believe how quickly her freshman year has gone. We're just 6 weeks away from her being a sophomore. I don't want it to go so fast...

When Dan reads this, he will tease me about getting ahead of myself. I can hear him already -"How's that one day at a time thing working for you?" It's a constant struggle for me to stay in the present.

So, I will try to enjoy today. This Monday, the sun is shining and I will get to go for a walk around Northfield Golf Club with my husband, watching our kid play. The present is pretty dang good...

Friday April 24, 2015

Today marks seven years since Dan got sober. It was a life changing event for him, for us as a couple and for our family.

So often here, I write about milestones that are tragic - diagnosis day, missed birthdays and homecomings and of course, the day Shannon passed.

As we talked about this milestone last night, Dan recognized that seven years ago he couldn't imagine being where he is now, leading a life without alcohol. Then he turned to me and said, "You know how I got here? One day at a time..."

Those words are an important motto no matter what you face in life. It's so easy to get caught up in projecting to the future and worrying about what's ahead.

So, today is a reminder to celebrate the good in life and to stay present. To remember that change is inevitable, but growth is optional. It's easier to just go along letting things happen to us, keeping things the way they've always been. Status quo is the path of least resistance.

It takes courage to make a conscious choice to improve your life. I'm grateful that Dan made the choice to grow.

"Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better." - Sydney J. Harris

Wednesday April 22, 2015

Mother nature put a wrench in our plans yesterday. Erin's golf meet at Red Wing was canceled due to cold temps, high winds, and snow flurries. I had kept my schedule open to go and watch, so we were both a little bummed.

It looks like the weather is going to take a turn for the better. Golf meets are on the calendar for this Thursday, and Monday and Wednesday next week. I'll get my chance to see her play.

It wasn't all bad to have a day off yesterday with no activity. I think we are all still recovering from a busy weekend in the Wisconsin Dells. Erin's volleyball group is a great group of kids with a fun group of parents. A good time was had by all :)

Work is ramping up for me as I am adding another weekly project to my work for Mayo Clinic News Network. It feels good to know that the work I have done so far has proven that I can do the job. I really am lucky to have found a little niche for myself. I mostly do my work from home, on my own schedule, and I can still be there for Erin when she needs me. I'd love to keep it this way through Erin's high school years and after that, who knows...

Now, I know I shouldn't get ahead of myself. Lord knows we can't predict the future. But, for now, my work/life balance is right where I like it...

Now, it's not lost on me that Erin would need me less if Shannon were here. Shannon would drive her to school and to and from golf practice. With two girls on the golf team, they probably wouldn't want me hanging around.

If Shannon were here, I probably wouldn't have re-discovered my writing ability and I wouldn't have the opportunities I have now. It's still so hard to reconcile all those things, all the things that I know would be different if only... it will always be that way. There will always be a piece of my mind that thinks about how each stage of my life would be different if we hadn't lost Shannon. Each recognition of this missing piece will be it's own little loss, one milestone at a time.

And yet, you have to just live with what is, not what could have, should have been. I can't feel guilty that I have a job writing. And I am allowed to enjoy the extra time I get to spend with Erin. I just need to remind myself of that.

I'm in a constant state of reflection, because that is where Shannon lives. It is exhausting sometimes, but I bring it on myself. I could bury my head in the sand and not say her name. But, I can't live like that.

I don't pursue happiness, but I like it when it's a by-product of choices I make. I think that's living. if you ask me today, I'd say I'm "happy". Who knows what's ahead, but I feel like I can handle it.

"I get it now; I didn't get it then. That life is about losing and about doing it as gracefully as possible...and enjoying everything in between." - Mia Farrow

Friday April 17, 2015

We survived another April 15th. Memories of Shannon stayed with us throughout the day.

Dan arranged his travels so he could swing by Lake Hubert in the evening and visit Shannon's rock.
He watched the sun set, while the loons and a baby eagle kept him company. He told me he was at peace...

Back to real life yesterday as Erin had her first away golf meet. The Mayo Spartans headed to The Bridges in Winona for a dual meet. It's a tough course against a good team.

Dan was also able to arrange his travels to be in Winona for the afternoon yesterday. He walked all 18 holes with Erin, watching her make a birdie (Erin said is was a really legit birdie :) and some pars along the way.

Erin shot 96 - reaching her set goal of breaking 100. She had the second best score on her team yesterday. Fun for her to see her hard work paying off - her round yesterday was 29 shots better than she shot last year on that course...

Dan was giving me the hole by hole breakdown via text which was really fun. He loved watching Erin compete. Dan said Wednesday was all about Shannon for him, and yesterday was all about Erin, and that felt good.

So, today we are getting organized to head out for the weekend. After golf practice, we'll load up the car and head to the Wisconsin Dells for a two day volleyball tournament - Diggin' in the Dells. 

Erin will play volleyball all morning tomorrow and then have the afternoon off before playing all day on Sunday. Last year the moms embarrassed their children by doing all the waterslides at the waterpark. We are determined to do so again this year. I think the moms (and dads) are looking forward to it as much as the kids!

April is flying by. And so it goes...

Wednesday April 15, 2015

Four years ago today, we were told that Shannon would die from a brain tumor. April 15th is the day everything changed for our family.  Diagnosis day is making my heart ache this morning.

Shannon taught us much during her nine month journey. Grace, courage, determination, perspective... We continue to live with those lessons in mind.

Thanks to Shannon, we have deeper, more meaningful relationships with family and friends. We have gained the ability to cut ourselves some slack, accept our short comings, and pay attention to what's really important in this precious life.

Shannon continues to inspire me to be a better person, to make my life count, to improve the world in some small way while I am here. I know she has done the same for countless others.

Thank you to all who have walked and continue to walk this path with us.

Monday April 13, 2015

Today is off to a good start - the sun is shining and Sunny and I had a nice, sloppy walk around the reservoir. I listened to tunes - a great mix of Hozier, Jason Mraz and Of Monsters and Men. If you haven't listened to Hozier yet, check him out...

The reservoir walk will always bring back memories of our journey with Shannon. I sometimes feel we had to walk that circle in order to think during those days. Covering that ground, well, at least it felt like something. During those nine months, the weather cooperated and we could walk that path almost ever day. It became the best ritual. I think I need to find that again.

Friday was a day filled with emotions - Erin's birthday coincides with "National Sibling Day". While this is one of those pseudo-holidays made up by who knows who, it still involves people posting pictures of them and their siblings. Damn.

Friday is also the anniversary of another death in our family. The day Henry, Erin's cousin's son, succumbed to meningitis. Too young to be gone.

And finally, Lauren Hill died on Friday. She was the basketball player who suffered from the same type of tumor as Shannon. She gained notoriety for playing college basketball until the very end. Lauren helped raise awareness for the need for funding of pediatric cancer research and she helped forward the cause by raising $1.5 million before she passed. And yet, she passed just the same...

I think about her parents now. Those days just after. The memorials, the outreach, the love. It's powerful. But it's a long journey and there are so many days ahead of them. Days without Lauren.

It's one of those week with a date looming on the calendar. April 15th - for us, it's not tax day, it's diagnosis day. The day the music changed, the day we had to quit dreaming about the future and try to stay in the present. April 15th is the day that a walk around the reservoir became so important for us. A place to sort out our thoughts, a place to move forward, step by step, as if we could walk our way out of it. A place to go and breathe and feel...

So, today is off to a good start. The sun on my skin and Shannon in my heart. Onward...

Happy Birthday, Erin!

Sweet Miss E turns 14 today. Older than Shannon ever was...

We couldn't be more proud of the young lady she has become. She had every right to fall apart after watching her sister die and seeing her parents struggle.  But, she chose to be strong and carry on.  We are grateful for that every single day.

Today entails school, then golf practice and then some friends coming over for s'mores around the fire pit.

Happy Birthday, Erin.

Wednesday April 8, 2015

Well, the golf season got underway yesterday... sort of...

Erin and her Mayo Spartans bundled up and hit the driving range, warming up for the Stewartville Invitational.  The 1:00pm shotgun start began in 41 degree weather with a blustery east wind at 15 miles an hour, making it feel like 36 degrees.

Golfing when there's a registered windchill is a challenge. Stocking caps and hand warmers were necessary, but Miss E was pumped and ready to go.

8 holes into the event, the weather horn sounded and the course was cleared.  A thunderstorm was on the way. Since when does it thunderstorm when it's 36 degrees?? Rain, thunder, and even hail made the course unplayable.

So, we will try again next week.  Meets are scheduled for Monday and Thursday, and hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate!

Saturday April 4, 2015

We are clinging to these last days of Spring Break - we're golfing today, Easter tomorrow and then Monday starts a nine week sprint to the end of the school year.

For Erin, those nine weeks will include 13 golf meets, 4 volleyball tournaments and countless practices for both.  Oh, and school...

For Dan, it will include trips to Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota and down to Nashville for sales meetings as well.

For me, well, I'll continue to do my weekly Mayo Clinic News Network writing, volunteer coach with the golf team, and be available to prop Dan and Erin up when necessary!  I wouldn't have it any other way...

I know we aren't out of the woods yet on the spring weather, but having some sunshine the past week has sure been nice.  We've gotten out to golf, and we've enjoyed sitting on our new patio, making s'mores over the fire pit and talking about life.  Erin has been willing to hang out some with mom and dad, and we sure do love that.  We continue to laugh a lot and enjoy each other's company.

There's been a full moon rising the past couple of nights.  A reminder of Shannon, always.  I've written before about how hard it is to imagine what are life would be like if Shannon were still with us.  I don't wish away what we have, but I do wonder.

The other night, I set the table for four.  No reason, just forgot.  Three plus years down the road, yet somewhere in the recesses of my brain, she is still here.

In this season of renewal, we look to what is new and good.  That's progress.  I am excited about what's ahead. But, I never leave behind what is passed.  I can't.  I cannot leave Shannon behind.

I read this quote recently about moving forward: " View the future through the windshield, not the rear view mirror."   Sounds like a good plan, but Shannon only shows up in the rear view mirror...

So, I continue to find myself moving forward, looking back.  Little reminders of her come frequently - a song on the radio, a movie she liked - and I hold those memories so tightly, afraid to let them slip.

I have a tendency to get ahead of myself, and I wonder - in 20 years, when I hear Katy Perry sing about "Last Friday Night" will I still be able to picture Shannon singing it at the top of her lungs, riding in our minivan?  I hope so.

I guess this is a way of acceptance.  This grief is forever.  That's daunting.  But, memories keep her close and reminders of her oftentimes make me smile.  Happy Easter, everyone.

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts." - George Eliot  

Wednesday April 1, 2015

Bring on April... we might get to 70 degrees here in Rochester this afternoon.  Woo hoo! We've got Mayo Girls Golf practice on the agenda today and we're looking forward to it.

Erin is back in the fold after a cruise that exceeded her expectations.  They had good weather and lots of fun.  Grandma and Papa enjoyed their time with Erin and said she was a delight.  Erin said the highlights were swimming with the dolphins and playing beach volleyball.

Erin also met a group of teens on board and they spent a lot of time together.  There were activities specifically for teens, and while they all were reluctant to sign up because they thought it would be "lame", the teen club cruise director told them to give it a chance.  Erin was glad she did.

She met kids from Miami and Canada and Ohio.  Boys and girls all between the ages of 13 and 16.  They played games together on the ship, had a teen dinner one night and spent their last night having a pajama movie party.  With no cell service or wifi, they got to just hang out and talk.  What a concept!

Gwen and Chuck enjoyed watching Erin interact with the other kids.  We are glad they got to see Miss E in action, mature and social and engaging.  Dan and I are so grateful to Grandma and Papa for giving each grandkid this experience.  We are lucky to have generous people in our lives.

There have been many reminders lately to enjoy each day.  If you didn't catch 60 Minutes on Sunday night, look it up online.  Reporter Scott Pelley did a feature on brain tumor treatment and the new innovation of immunotherapy to treat cancer.  While the study they profiled is one at Duke University, this is the same type of research being done here at Mayo Clinic by the "Shannon Group".

This research is so important.  New ideas are needed to improve treatments.  I've been in contact with two families recently who each have a child diagnosed with DIPG, just like Shannon.  I try to offer support and a little guidance, only giving them what they ask for.  Each family must choose their path and how to spend the time they have left with their children.  My heart aches for them.

Having Erin take her 13th birthday trip makes us reminisce about Shannon's trip as well.  She was sick that summer, but she was determined to build up strength and go on her adventure.  I'll be damned if she didn't do just that.

We continue to be inspired by Shannon - to live with purpose, and to enjoy what's right here, right now.  We carry her with us always, even to the Bahamas...