Tuesday June 30, 2015

As far as days go, this one has been pretty special.  We are in Ireland, staying in Limerick and visiting the sights from here for the first couple of days of our vacation, or, as they say over here, holiday.

As advertised, the Irish people are so friendly and making us feel welcome. This morning was a walk across the bridge over River Shannon to a local coffee shop. Fun to listen to the little boy next to us have a conversation with his mum... There accents are so great to listen to.  Dan has fallen into the habit of using his fake Irish accent. Erin and I are trying to help him keep it in check...

After breakfast as we walked back to the hotel, Dan and Erin started scheming about fitting in a round of golf today. Now, being the trip planner, I had to point out that that wasn't on the agenda. But they convinced me we could do it all. Heck, it stays light until 10pm...

They did appease me and my schedule by first visiting King John's Castle - a 13th century fortress that offers beautiful views of Limerick, the River Shannon, and the countryside. We didn't linger, though, because our 4:30 tee time was not far off. So, a quick walk back to the hotel to pick up the car so we could head to a nearby public golf course - the Shannon Golf Club.

It's actually right next to Shannon Airport in the town of Shannon where we flew in yesterday. Paul in the pro shop, who was dressed like Ian Poulter, set us up with some rental clubs and golf buggys and off we went.

It was a cute parkland course and the weather was not typical for Ireland. We played in shorts and sunglasses. We all wanted to hit some golf shots before we have a stern test at Ballybunion tomorrow, so it was good to get out on the course.

While most of the course was inland, the 17th hole jutted out into the Shannon estuary and Erin asked if we could put Shannon ashes there. Erin climbed down the rock wall and returned Shannon to the sea. 

We finished our day back in Limerick with dinner at The Locke Bar where they have traditional Irish  music played live every night of the week.  It is a popular hang out with the locals, so it was fun to be out among the people.

Our time here in Limerick has been nice. Seeing Shannon's name on the river and businesses and golf courses and even a town has been special. Tonight we took one last stroll across the river and, low and behold, there is a full Shannon moon. Perfect.

Friday June 26, 2015

Well, it is whirlwind of activity around here... Today we leave for 9 days... 3 in NYC to attend niece Annie's wedding and then Sunday night we fly on to Shannon Airport for our week in Ireland.
Sunny and Sylvie are under the care of Grandma and Papa Harkins. We are ready.
Of course we will think of Shannon often on this trip. Her ashes are traveling with us and will be sprinkled in the River Shannon... 
The circle of life moves on, but Shannon is still doing her part. This week on Mayo Clinic Radio, Dr. Richard Vile tells the story of how he's been affected by Shannon and the research he's doing now using Shannon's cells.
It's hard to fathom that getting to know Dr. Cynthia Wetmore at St. Jude led us to donating Shannon's cells there, where Dr. Wetmore cared for them and helped them grow in the lab. After attending Shannon's funeral, Dr. Vile was able to request those those cells from Dr. Wetmore so that he could begin his research into treating DIPG with immunotherapy. They are making advances with this type of therapy in other cancers, and now they are working on treating brain tumors this way.
If you can, tune in here at 9:05 a.m. CT, Saturday, June 27, to hear about Dr. Vile's research. You can also find Mayo Clinic Radio on iHeartRadio.
If you miss the show, I'll share the podcast when it becomes available
This whole story feels like it's not finished. Will Shannon's cells actually lead to better treatment someday? Wouldn't that be exactly what she wanted? I'm holding out hope that I can see that in my lifetime.

So as I pack, I'm thinking of Cynthia and Richard and Shannon's cells and her gift to us all. She has inspired us to see the world and enjoy each day. Off we go...

Saturday June 20, 2015

OK, it's time for some shameless commerce here...

One month from today is our fundraiser: MGG Swings for Shannon Golf Tournament. This is the third annual event that raises money for the Mayo Girls Golf team as well as the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. Last year, we raised enough to fund three scholarships for 2015.

The event is a 4 person best shot, and we've got prizes for best score, worst score, and even some in the middle. Lots of great raffle prizes, too, and a chance to win a TV. We've got good golfers, bad golfers, women, men, families, you name it.

So, all you golfers out there, put together a team and come join us. It really is a fun event for a great cause and I promise, you'll enjoy yourselves!

If you can't golf, but would like to donate a raffle prize, please email me at: info@shannonoharafoundation.org.

Here are the details:

MGG Swings for Shannon - 4 person best shot golf tournament
Monday July 20th - Eastwood Golf Course
12:30pm registration - 2:00pm shotgun start
$75 entry fee - includes golf, cart, and dinner
$20 players card - enters you in hole contests, mulligan and putting contest

Registration forms are available at: www.shannonoharafoundation.org.

Thanks for your support and hope to see you on the course!

Wednesday June 17, 2015

Sometimes I feel like I carry around this big secret. Like if someone asked me the question "Tell me one thing about you?" What's the first thing I'd want to say? It's maybe not fair to me to say the most important fact about me is that I lost a daughter, but that's how it feels.

We had new neighbors move in yesterday, and that led me to the uncomfortable introduction of our children. They have 3 - a first grader, a four year old, and a six month old. We have one, but not really...

When we get to know them better, we will share our story. It's not a great ice breaker when you're trying to make a good impression.

I think that's why I'm feeling this way today. I always feel guilty when I don't acknowledge Shannon's existence when I talk about my family. Sometimes, though, having a child who died just doesn't fit into the conversation.

The new neighbors seem very nice and someday they will understand who I really am. The mother of two, raising one while living my life to honor the other.

There is much Shannon stuff ahead in the coming weeks.

Preparations are underway for the MGG Swings for Shannon golf event. Our committee met this week and we're looking forward to the 3rd Annual event being even bigger and better. I always feel stressed about making the event run smoothly, but it always does.

But before that, Dan, Erin and I will go to Ireland. We will land at Shannon airport on my birthday and spend the first two nights staying on the Shannon River. It will be impossible not to think of her. And I'm OK with that. I feel better when she is a part of things, when I acknowledge her instead of keeping it a secret.

Someday the new neighbors will know not just who we are now, but who we used to be...

Friday June 12, 2015

The sun is shining off the lake as I awake on this Friday morning. We really have had wonderful weather during most of our week. June can be a crapshoot, but we nailed it. We golfed in shorts and shirtsleeves and even had a 90 degree beach day which felt pretty dang good. Plus, the sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular.

Erin has done it all this week - four rounds of golf, boating to dinner on Gull Lake, skiing on Lake Hubert, jet-skiing on Pelican. Not bad considering we don't own a boat or a jet-ski. Let's just say, it's good to have friends at the lake.

Dan has spent his time working around the cabin, cleaning reeds off the beach, taking down scrub brush and burning his compost pile. He was quite the vision yesterday, pulling off the swimsuit with long socks and boots look... He loves the busy work and its important to him to keep this family treasure looking good. So many memories for him here.

As for me, coffee each morning by the Shannon rock and afternoon naps with a trashy chick novel make me pretty content. I've been able to do my work remotely, even calling in for our weekly meeting yesterday. It's a perfect gig for me, and I continue to feel really fortunate to have landed it. I'm learning new things each week, and it feels good to be engaged.

Our trio has had lots of family time up here, and lots of laughs. We never forget how lucky we are to have made it to this point. We could have crumbled or imploded after we lost Shannon. But we didn't. We found a way to nurture each other and there's a bond now that I can't explain. Erin is willing to spend more time with her parents than most 14 year olds. She knows on some cosmic level that we need her as much as she needs us.

So, today is supposed to be get away day, but we are in no hurry to leave. Clear skies and 80 degrees will make it tough to pack up and head home. But, there are things at home that need doing and poor Sylvie is probably lonely without her pal Sunny. I'm not going to admit that I missed my cat...

Summer 2K15 is off to an excellent start. And it's only just begun. We leave for NYC/Ireland two weeks from today. Our next adventure will find us landing at Shannon Airport and staying in a hotel along the Shannon river. She is not here, but she is with us every step of the way...

Saturday June 6, 2015

This is my office today... Hopefully I can articulate my thoughts clearly from this place of peace and quiet.

Erin finished her freshman year of high school yesterday. She took her last final, finished at 9:40am, and we picked her up from Mayo HS and headed directly to Lake Hubert. Erin is now a sophomore... and Shannon's class are now seniors in high school. How did that happen?

We arrived at the lake, unpacked, and then Erin and Dan were already chomping at the bit to go play golf. So, off to the The Pines we went! Yes, in our first 24 hours, we've already played golf and had Rafferty's pizza and a trip to the Chocolate Ox. Not a bad start...

But upon returning to the cabin, Erin was a little melancholy. She misses her sister up here more than any place else in the world. It's the memories, for sure. But it's also the idle time we have when we're here. More so than anywhere else, Lake Hubert is a place where life slows down for us. That's why we love it so, but it also brings more space to think and holes to fill. How better to fill that than hanging with your sister?

It's easy to watch Erin's busy life and think that she's got it all going on... and she does. But, I shouldn't forget that she suffered a terrible loss, too. She will most likely live with the loss of Shannon longer that anyone else in our family. I'm sad for her about that.

Nevertheless, we are all glad to be starting Summer 2K15 at Lake Hubert. Erin's cousins Jack and Laurynn are in the neighborhood today and planning to come for a visit. Erin may have some friends staying not too far away during the week, so that could liven things up for Miss E.

Until then, we will sleep on the porch, read a good book, drink coffee by the lake, play some more golf and continue to decompress. Life is good...

Monday June 1, 2015

And just like that, it's over. The high school golf season finished today with the Section Tournament at Cannon Falls. Erin played well (according to her mom :) but wasn't completely satisfied. That's the thing about golf, you can always think about shots you could have hit better, or putts you could have made...

But, when she gets over the disappointment of the season being over, I think she'll be happy with the progress she made. She broke 90 for the first time this year and she lowered her stroke average by about 15 strokes since last year. She looks like a golfer out there. Her team made big progress, too, finishing fourth in the section this year.

Erin is a grinder. Both days at sections she had a rough front nine, but fought back to make some pars and do better on the back. There is nowhere to hide when you are playing competitive golf. You have to do it all yourself. If you get into trouble, you have to figure it out. You have to learn to calm your nerves and pull the trigger. She's learning to do just that. And, she loves it. She's already talking about the things she wants to work on this summer to improve her game.

But all these golf things are not the best part. The best part for me as her mom is watching Erin carry herself out there with confidence and humility. She's kind to the other girls in her group and friendly to all the adults she encounters - coaches and spectators alike. She tolerated having me, Dan and Grandma and Papa Harkins watch her play today. Erin always has an encouraging word for her teammates and a smile for her coach.

Another year done with Coach Myhro. He roots as hard for the girls as their own parents do and we so enjoy being around him and his squad. Dan commented on our way home that we've had four seasons with Mayo Girls Golf - one with Shannon and now three with Erin.

But now, it's time to turn Erin's focus to school. One last day of regular classes tomorrow and then final exams Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The reward for getting through finals? A trip to Lake Hubert ... and a chance to play more golf!