Sunday November 29, 2015

We are home safe and sound from our Thanksgiving away in California. Four nights at a lovely resort, waking up to the sun rising on the mountains each day, time golfing and sitting by the pool, Thanksgiving with friends who are like family... the trip certainly checked all the boxes.

Erin tolerates time with us pretty well for a teenager. She said to me at the airport last night, "I can't believe how much time I spend with my parents!" This was not said in anger, but acknowledging that we are outside the norm. We are a tight knit unit of three. We need each other in ways that other families do not. When you've been where we've been, you lean hard on each other.

Erin knows we hold on tightly - how could we not? I joke with her that I can't wait to see where "we" are going to college. I think she's a little bit afraid that I an serious and will move into an apartment across from her dorm.

I hope we are just holding on tightly to the time we have together knowing that it will end. She will spend less time with us as she gets older. I know that. Intellectually, I know that. Emotionally, I admit that it's going to be hard. She's one of my best friends...

While sitting by the pool yesterday, we watched these two little sisters playing together. The big sister bossing the little sister around, and the little sister getting irritated and frustrated. We took the opportunity to talk about Shannon. We laughed about how Shannon would always be in charge. If they we playing house, Shannon was the mom and Erin was the kid. If they were playing school, of course Shannon was the teacher and Erin the student. The best of all was when they played restaurant. It was Shannon's show and Erin was just her employee.

It's good to share these memories between us three. I sometimes feel guilty about all the new memories we are making, the three of us, without Shannon. So much has happened in our lives now since Shannon. And that makes me sad.

But, if the options are to withdraw and live in the past, or continue growing and changing, well, I'll choose the latter. The pain of missing Shannon is worth the experience of living life. Erin deserves it.  So do I.

Tuesday November 24, 2015

I am blogging from the sky above Colorado… Dan, Erin and I are on our way to Palm Desert for our second annual Thanksgiving in California. It has been a whirlwind fall and we will try to soak up some R & R before we head into the holiday season back in Minnesota.

This past weekend was full of “Shannon moments” - from the high school musical starring one of Shannon’s friends, to a book signing where people asked about our story, to speaking at a hall of fame induction ceremony for a local area high school. Three and a half years gone, but her picture on the screen still evokes emotion, not only for me and Dan, but for those with whom we share our story.

When we return from the holiday break, we will be in our 10 week stretch that involves a capital fundraising campaign for the SOF, 6 Shannon Cup hockey tournaments, a SOF night at HS girls hockey, the Rochester Area Sports Commission Banquet, and finally, wrapping up on February 13th with our 4th Annual Shannon O’Hara Memorial Scholarships. It’s all so good and so worthwhile. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy…

We made this decision last year, to travel at Thanksgiving time. It’s OK to do what we want, right? We want to go play golf together. We want to recharge our batteries and fire up for the season ahead. 

I heard in the news this week that Lloyd Carr, the former University of Michigan football coach lost his 5 year-old grandson to a brain tumor. When I hear of someone young dying so quickly, I immediately check to find out what kind of tumor it was. Sure enough, DIPG. Damn it’s an awful disease. I hope that I see some change in life expectancy in my lifetime. I wish I had millions of dollars to give to scientists doing the research…

But, instead, we will give what we can and will keep giving scholarships in Shannon’s memory. 

I’ve really been loving Adele’s new album, 25. Lots of great songs on there, but one particular song, A Million Year Ago, is about living with regrets.

Sometimes I feel it’s only me
Who never became who they thought they’d be

I wish I could live a little more
Look up to the sky not just the floor
I feel like my life is flashing by
All I can do is watch and cry

I definitely didn’t become who I thought I’d be. But it wasn’t all my fault… things happened and the loss of Shannon changed me. It’s a part of my life every day, sometimes in big ways, but often in small ones that go unnoticed. We continue every day to try and stay in the moment and enjoy what’s here and now. So, we are off to California, trying to live a little more…

Determined to Matter

If you haven't had a chance to read Determined to Matter, or if you'd like to buy a copy for a friend, I will be taking part in a local authors event this Saturday from 2-4pm at the Rochester Public Library.

Several talented authors will be on hand with copies of their books for sale, so come by, say hi, and buy a book!

Sunday November 15, 2015

They say all good things must come to an end... and Erin's volleyball season ended this weekend.  The results at the state tournament weren't what the Spartans had hoped for, but in time, they will remember the experience with fondness.

Dan and I enjoyed every minute of it. Hard to believe that Erin only has two more volleyball seasons left. Where is the time going? Second quarter of her sophomore year starts tomorrow. I need to remember to enjoy every minute of it, before it's over.

Dan and I enjoyed our trip to the state tournament as well. We visited with family and friends, and I barely escaped a mother-in-law disaster...

After the game on Thursday, Dan and I paid a visit to Ed and Tess. There were a few items Tess needed at the store, so we all jumped in the car to head to Target. Dan and Ed decided to stay in the car, and Tess and I ran into the store. I had Tess holding my arm as we walked down the main isle, but she let go of my arm to blow her nose. At that exact moment, a woman, 9 months pregnant with a cart full of stuff, ran into Tess and knocked her to the ground. Oh my lord...

A bit of chaos ensued as the first Target employee to get to us was a young woman who admitted, "I don't know what to do, it's my first day!" The store manager did come, and Tess, believe it or not, only needed some band aids for her forearm and hand that she scraped on the shelf as she went down. No broken bones. I told her, at age 89.75, if you can crash to the ground on a tile floor at Target and not break a hip, you're doing great!

Tess was sweet and once she was over the shock of it, she said to me, "I'm glad you brought me in the store and not Danny!" We all have our strengths... It's a funny story now, but it could have been so much worse...

Now that volleyball has ended, Erin's schedule will lighten up for the next couple of months. She's ready for a little down time, I think. A little more time for homework and friends, a couple of holiday breaks, and finally, drivers training! Yes, Erin gets to do the classroom portion of Driver's Ed at the end of the year.  

I know, don't get too far ahead of myself. Start with this week, which involves some Shannon O'Hara Foundation work. Three more hockey teams to visit and hand out scholarship applications, and getting our capital fundraising campaign ready to mail. The winter SOF work has begun. 

It's all worth it when we see the kids playing in Shannon's memory and we see our scholarship winners succeeding as students, and sometimes athletes, at the next level. The Rochester Youth Hockey Association went out of their way to honor Shannon this year. The new white RYHA jerseys incorporated the SOF logo in the design. That means that all traveling hockey players - boys and girls - will carry that memory of Shannon out on the ice with them this year.  We think that's pretty dang cool...

Give To The Max Day - Thursday November 12, 2015

I am feeling much gratitude as I wake this morning. It's been a week of Shannon connections, speaking to the high school hockey teams and handing out scholarship applications. So poignant for us this year as these seniors are Shannon's classmates.

We have received some great feedback from kids and parents about the new Rochester Youth Hockey jerseys. RYHA incorporated the SOF logo into their design this year. We hope that kids will wear them with pride and skate with joy, just like Shannon.

I am grateful for this blog, this opportunity to reach people and share our story. I've been thinking (again) about what the end game is. But, as I get further and further down this grief journey, I realize I will always have something to say. It doesn't end.

I received a card in the mail this week. Someone who has followed our journey, and continues to connect with these words that I write. That's such a gift - a gift from Shannon - to be able to connect with people. Maybe this isn't just a grief journal, but a life journal.

I am grateful I get to go watch Erin and her teammates at the state tournament today. Dan was suppose to arrive home last night, but his flight from Grand Rapids, MI to Chicago got delayed, then canceled. So, plan B involved renting a car, driving to Chicago, spending the night and then getting on the first flight to Minneapolis this morning. I will pick him up there are we will make it to the Excel Center in plenty of time for the game. Cross your fingers...

Today is Give To The Max Day in Minnesota. A one day fundraiser for non-profits and schools around the state. If you or your employer are giving today, we'd sure appreciate a donation to the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. We carry on her spirit and we couldn't do it without you.

To make a donation, visit our page at

Sunday November 8, 2015

Yesterday was the most fun I've had at a sporting event in a long time. Erin's Mayo Spartans won a section title yesterday and are off to the State Volleyball tournament this week. That doesn't even begin to tell the story...

Mayo was facing Lakeville South, the 3rd ranked team in the state. Mayo won the first game in pretty routine fashion and us fans in the stands were feeling pretty good. Game two was neck and neck, but Lakeville edged ahead and evened the match at one game apiece.

Game three was an ass kicking... by the wrong team. Mayo looked down and out and things didn't get better at the start of game four. Mayo found themselves down 21-17, just four points from elimination. But something really cool happened... they refused to lose. They played as a team and their senior leader, Shannon's friend Anna, led them with her positive attitude and belief. Mayo took game four 26-24 and game five was never in doubt as Mayo finished off Lakeville 15-10.

For Erin, being on the bench, being a part of this experience and watching her friend, Lexie, quarterback the team out there was pretty special. Lexie stepped into the setter role this year and it wasn't without growing pains. But, when it mattered most, she played great.

So yesterday Dan and I screamed and shouted and rooted as hard as we could for these girls who are like family to Erin. Through the whole thing, we were sending up silent prayers to our angel, hoping she could send some good mojo our way. As I've said before, volleyball will always be attached in our minds to Erin's life in the after. There's no doubt it's a part of her recovery from the loss of her sister.

After the game, there was excitement and hugs all around. And, for me and Dan, one poignant moment. While congratulating Anna, Dan said "Shannon would be so proud of you".  The tears flowed for all of us. Shannon was remembered in that moment by the people who loved her and walked with her on her journey. She is always with us.

So, one final week of volleyball. There will be a pep fest send off on Wednesday, the state banquet Wednesday night, and a first round game on Thursday morning at the Excel Center in St. Paul. Couldn't ask for a better way to end the season.

Wednesday November 4, 2015

I went to a funeral today. Not someone I knew personally, but the mother of a friend. For the rest of my life, my funeral attire will always include a hint of lime green. My own personal shout out to sweet Shannon.

Funerals make us reflect on who we are. It's a grounding experience to acknowledge a life that has ended. It's impossible not to think about Shannon in these moments, but as I age, I also think about what my own legacy will be. I hope I've got a lot of time left, but one never knows. The pastor today said exactly that. We all think we will have tomorrow, but tomorrow isn't promised.

The other take away today was surround yourself with people who care. Whether it's blood family or chosen family, build your support system to carry you through the hard things life throws your way. And there will be hard things. As I get older, that's another revelation to me — no one gets through this life unscathed.

The quiet reflection served me well today. It's amazing what sitting still for an hour can do to the mind. Oh, the places it can go...  it made me realize how busy life can be, and how I can forget to just... be...

It's easy to get caught up in running here and running there, but it doesn't hurt to step back and reflect. So, here's what I know today: what matters is love and kindness. Spread it when you can, soak it up when it's your turn.

This passage was shared at the service today, and it spoke to me:

Today I choose to live with gratitude
For the love that fills my heart,
The peace that rests within my spirit,
And the voice of hope that says... 
All things are possible.

Sunday November 1, 2015

A relaxing weekend with no agenda is doing us all some good. Now, when I say no agenda, that doesn't mean that Erin isn't busy. It's just she's doing things she wants to do, not things she has to do!

Those activities included a home section playoff win for her volleyball team and a post game trip to Culver's on Friday. Yesterday involved sleeping in, hanging out downtown at a cafe with friends and then on to a Halloween party. Today also involves sleeping in, then a birthday lunch for one friend and a visit to another. Not a single mention of schoolwork in there... hmm... at least she's got the social aspect covered!

I can't believe that today is November. Dan is out golfing on this warmer than normal day. I am sitting down to write because I'm avoiding the list of tasks I should be doing! Now that I'm working 30 hours a week, plus teaching tennis one afternoon each week I don't seem to get things done around the house. I guess that's what weekends are for.

It has been a good stretch for me - work is going very well and I feel lucky to be engaged each day with interesting things to write about. I couldn't imagine a better fit for my skills - some writing, some social media and web work, lots of organization. I can still work mainly from home, and I have the freedom to be there when Erin needs me... which is becoming less and less often as one of her friends seems to pass their drivers test each day!

Yes, most of Erin's classmates will be turning 16 over the course of this year. Erin will not be 15 until April. This is the first time that being really young for her grade has felt like a detriment. Erin does get to take the drivers training course in December, so that will get her closer... it is hard to not have the same freedom as many of your friends do. But, the lack of a driver's license doesn't seem to be cramping her social life!

This week there will be a focus on the volleyball playoffs. Mayo will host Owatonna in the section semifinals on Thursday. It is fun to watch Erin on the bench as a part of the tournament team. If Mayo can get through Owatonna, the section final is next Saturday and they could potentially face Lakeville South, which is ranked third in the state. Mayo would be the underdog for the first time in a long time.

But first things first. Have to win on Thursday night.

So, life rolls on. Erin and her schedule seem to be driving the train around here. Nothing wrong with that. Seeing her thrive means we are doing all right. It's her world and we are just along for the ride...