New Year's Eve

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein

We have reached the end of December, and this date on the calendar where we all look back at the year that was. Reflection is often difficult, reminding us that it's been another year without Shannon.

But as I look back at the photos we took in 2015, I am reminded to remember the good. Successful high school activities and academics, a wonderful amount of travel and rewarding work for me and Dan.

That's life, right? You can focus on what's missing or you can concentrate and what you have...

This is a constant dance for us as we can't ever forget what we've lost, nor do we want to. Shannon is with us always and her spirit is sometimes the rudder that rights my ship. I must go on because she wasn't able to...

Yes, life presents struggles and illness and death befall those that we love. But, the love is the thing. It wouldn't hurt so bad if we didn't love so much. And I understand now that in that love, we find warmth and security and healing. The love is worth the pain...

2015 saw us continue our work with the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. We are so close to reaching $100,000 raised. January could see us top that mark. That work is as rewarding as anything we do all year. Difficult and heart wrenching at times, but the love is worth the pain.

2015 was another year of growth for miss Erin. She's cruising through her sophomore year of high school, enjoying HS sports and the high school social life. That social life is improving every day as a new friend seems to get his or her driver's license every week! Erin is still a ways away from driving herself, but it's so much more fun to ride with friends than to be driven places by your mom...

So, on we go. The anniversary of Shannon's passing is just around the corner, but for today, I'm going to remember a successful year for our trio. Me, Dan and Erin continue to grow closer as each year passes. What more could I ask for...

Happy New Year!

Sunday December 27, 2015

In times of introspection, I always fall back on music. What an age we live in now where you can think of a song you'd like to hear, and it's immediately at your disposal via a download to your smartphone.

We've been listening to our fair share of Christmas carols this past week. While I love a good holiday song, I don't think I ever need to hear Mariah Carey sing "All I Want For Christmas is You" again...

We hosted both of our families over the past week and there are so many reminders of what really matters. Four living parents for me and Dan, brothers and sisters, cousins galore for Erin. Lots of laughs, lots of memories of Shannon, lots of heartfelt well wishes.

Every day, it seems there is a reminder that the circle of life is unrelenting. A friend of Shannon and Erin's lost her grandpa yesterday. Death of an elderly man is expected, but it's still a death, and it's still an adjustment for them to a new normal.

We have another week at home together, some down time to gear up for the busy month ahead. January holds four Shannon O'Hara Foundation events for us, so this is the calm before the storm. Erin is the only one with an agenda, taking Driver's Ed each afternoon. She's none too happy about it, but it's a means to an end, and she can't wait for that end!

So, 2015 is rolling to a close. Another year, more ground covered... Hopefully, I'm a littler wiser. I'll keep trying...

A love like this won't last forever
I know that a love like this won't last forever
But I, I don't really mind, I don't really mind at all 

Kodaline - Love Like This - From their album, In A Perfect World

Christmas Eve

Let's just start with the good news - I had my yearly mammogram and bone density test yesterday and everything looks good. I'm now 3 years post DCIS diagnosis. I've got another year and a half on the Tamoxifen, but taking a pill once a day to lower the risk of recurrence isn't too hard. Seeing my friend Kula start chemo this week reminds me how lucky I am. I had the best kind of breast cancer :)

Speaking of Kula, she tolerated her first round of chemo with no problems. She is a determined lady and I just have to believe that her feisty Greek blood will serve her well in her fight.

There's no doubt that Kula's diagnosis has muted things around here over the past few days. And, celebrating another Christmas without Shannon is no small task. It doesn't get easier with time. 

But today is the beginning of the holiday week, and we're going to muster up some good cheer and enjoy friends and family that we'll see over the next few days. There is so much comfort in being loved.

I read this quote from Alfred D'Souza this week:

"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

The point is, don't wait for just the right moment to be happy. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. It sounds so trite, but it's true. Life is hard, but that doesn't mean you can't find joy and meaning along the way.

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Tuesday December 22, 2015

As I sit to write this morning, a friend of mine is starting her chemo treatment today... yet another reminder that life is so fragile...

I hate it when things don't make sense. My friend Kula is in perfect shape, doesn't eat or drink too much, exercises every day. She got her mammogram every year, but this year she insisted on getting an MBI (molecular breast imaging) because of her dense breasts.

Invasive ductal carcinoma, grade 3... chemo for the next 5 months, then a double mastectomy.

I found myself being so mad this weekend. Life just ain't fair...

Kula has been a rock for me for the past five years, from Shannon's diagnosis through today. It's my turn now.

This has shaken Erin's world, too. She thinks of Kula as her second mom. They travel together, they chat about life. Erin is sad and scared and having to buck up for another cancer journey. Too many journeys by age 14 if you ask me.

This is the stuff of life, though. The longer you live, the more you love, the more vulnerable you are. I guess in time like these, I just need to remember the love is worth the pain.

So, hold a good thought for my friend today. She deserves it.

"As we advance in life it becomes more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed." - Vincent Van Gogh

New Merchandise On Sale Tonight! (12/16)

Just a reminder that I will be at Graham Arena from 5 - 8 pm tonight selling SOF merchandise. If you need to do some holiday shopping, stop on by. Here's what I will have on hand:

     * New travel coffee tumbler - $15
     * New 1/4 zip pullover - $40
     * Logo sweatpants - $25
     * Hockey lace sweatshirt - $40 (some sizes not available)
     * Visors - $10
     * Lanyards - $5

Sounds like the weather might get a little nasty, but hope to see some of you out there!

Thursday December 10, 2015

The weather doesn't indicate it, but the Christmas holiday is just two weeks away. Unseasonably warm temps had people playing golf this week here! That's a good day if you can golf in December in MN...

Yes, the holidays are approaching and I find that I can't remember the details of the past three years, but I can remember every detail of that December four years ago when we went to St. Jude with Shannon. These days were the worst - even worse than the day she died. Seeing her decline, hearing her say she didn't want to live like that - those are the December memories that I can't forget. Not that I want to...

I went to a girls hockey game this week, watching Shannon's Mayo Spartans play their crosstown rivals the JM/Lourdes team. Dan was on the road and Erin didn't want to go, so I went by myself. But, I knew I wouldn't be alone...

Shannon had dear friends on both teams, and so do I. I got to reconnect with my hockey mom friends and sit in the stands and watch the girls play... same as it ever was, except not quite...

These women also remember that December four years ago. Shannon skated with her Rebels team on December 3, 2011 and left the next day. She never skated again... I was glad to see these ladies this week. They were happy to let me talk about Shannon and it was comforting to know that they, too, try to imagine Shannon now... in our minds, she is the little spitfire 13-year-old who sang at the top of her lungs in the locker room.

The holidays are a season of reflection. I feel like I do plenty of that, but it's especially poignant at this time of year. We have been receiving some wonderful donations to the Shannon O'Hara Foundation and sometimes those donations come with a note, a memory, or just a thank you. We are humbled and honored that people support Shannon's memory in this way.

I stopped to pick up our dry-cleaning the other day, and the women working there said, "I don't know how to say this, but I read your book." She loved the book and she said "you had an amazing daughter." she apologized for bringing it up, but I told her, "I'm always glad to hear Shannon's name."

If you know someone who has lost someone - and we all do - don't be afraid. If it's too raw, they will let you know. But, more often than not, as we gather with family and friends during this season, what we want is to talk about our loved ones we've lost, so hear and say their name...

"Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality." - Emily Dickinson

Sunday December 6, 2015

It's a tough week to read the news... killings in San Bernadino, protests in North Minneapolis, and the news this weekend that two high school kids from a community north of here died in a one vehicle crash leaving school.

The world feels so arbitrary reminds me that so many things are out of our control.

In times like these, I feel the need to circle the wagons a bit. Dan, Erin and I have had a great weekend together. Dan and I had a date to the movies on Friday, and then yesterday the three of us spent the day together running errands and picking up a Christmas tree.   Erin and I decorated it last night, talking about the ornaments - which ones are our favorites... I continue to put the ornaments Shannon made for me on the tree each year. There's also the baby's first Christmas, complete with a photo of a bright-eyed girl. We hung Shannon's stocking on the mantle as we have done each year since she was born. How could we not?

I worked on our Christmas card this week. I do love sending and receiving these, catching up with family and friends. The photos, the letters... this is another thing that's so tricky for me since Shannon passed. Picking out just the right card... there is no card that says "We had a good year and we're doing all right, but we're not over it and never will be and Christmas will never be the same". How do you acknowledge Shannon in this yearly ritual?

As we were running errands yesterday, we made a stop at our favorite pizza place for a quick lunch. As we were sitting there, a young boy and his family walked in. The boy was dressed in his hockey jersey, complete with the Shannon logo on it. First time we had seen it in person. The family walked right by us with no knowledge of who we are... it was a strange sensation.

Our holiday fundraising campaign is underway and we've already received a couple of large donations along with several small ones. We're going to keep up this work that Shannon wanted. It's the way we can do some good in this world that's sometimes so bad...

I've been reading and listening to music this week, trying to sooth my soul from the madness in the news. This season is hard, yet my life is good. I do remember that, even as I feel the ache of loss.

"Here is one of the worst things about having someone you love die: It happens again every single morning." - Anna Quindlen