Tuesday January 26, 2016

Eight days have passed since I last had a chance to blog... So much activity in our lives during this month of January!

The last week has brought us senior day at the Mayo Girls Hockey game, a 90th birthday party for Dan's mother and a speaking engagement at last night's Rochester Amateur Sports Commission's annual banquet. In between all that, preparations for this weekend's Shannon Cup, Erin prepping for finals, and Dan with a busy travel schedule. Nothing like speaking to a room of 600 people last night, and then jumping on a plane at 5:30am for Detroit...

The Mayo Girl's hockey program has been so kind to us this season. They invited us to participate in their senior day, where each senior and their parents were recognized. Erin was willing to stand in for Shannon. We were grateful to be included.

Tess O'Hara's 90th birthday party was a happy occasion with her surrounded by her nine children.  Oh, the sheer volume that is created when they are all together... I can't even describe it. It rivals and rock concert you've ever been to, but only if all the band members were singing at once. This picture is not a good representation of the event:


All kidding aside, the room was quiet as Tess gave a little speech about the things that have brought her family together. First was the cabin. Lake Hubert has been a part of the family legacy since Ed starting going there as a child and Tess has so many good memories of her own children at the lake.

Then she talked about her kids finding spouses and starting families. Kids became couples and couples became families. She's lived to see three great grandchildren be born, and another three are on the way!

Finally, Tess spoke about the loss of Shannon. Family in a time of tragedy can rise to the occasion or fall apart. I'm grateful the O'Haras were - and still are - up to the task. Tess talks to her angel Shannon and feels she is with her in spirit. Amen.

I'm lucky to have my family along on this journey, too. My brother drove down last night to be a part of the banquet and to hear us speak. My friend, Kula, was there, too, along with our other board members. We couldn't do it all without their support.

So, we've reached the end of January. Many Shannon events behind us now, but still three weeks to go: Shannon Cup, SOF Board of Directors meeting and finally, Scholarship Day on February 13th.

I think I can, I think I can...

Monday January 18, 2016

Happy Martin Luther King day. MLK always makes me remember our time in Memphis and visiting the Lorraine Motel where MLK was killed. Our friends the Olsons had come to visit Shannon at St. Jude's, and we took a field trip with Shannon in a wheelchair, being pushed by her buddy, Anna. So long ago already...

While that's a sad Shannon memory, we had the opportunity this weekend to share some good Shannon memories, too. It was the first weekend of the Shannon Cup, and we spent part of each day at Graham Arena meeting the teams and watching the girls play.

We had teams from far and wide this year - Omaha to Aberdeen to Winnipeg. We enjoyed sharing our story, and we're happy to say that some SOF product went home with those teams! Someone in Winnipeg is probably wearing a Shannon shirt right now...

It is interesting to see people read the poster chronicling Shannon's story and then turn to us to try and make sense of it all. It hits these people right were they are - their daughters are 13 and 14 year old girls, playing hockey, living life. We try and tell them to enjoy every minute of it and don't sweat the small stuff.

A big thanks to the Century Girls Hockey team for working at our merchandise table all day long during the event. (Also, to sis-in-law Connie who did a stint as well :) We feel really good about where the foundation is at, and our fundraising at these events continues to be a success.

We're happy to report that the U15A Rochester girls won the championship 3-2 against Centennial. Now, I know that would make Shannon happy as Centennial always got under her skin! 

Thank you to the kids who wear their Shannon gear and support our cause, and thanks to the parents who take the time to talk with us and learn about our foundation. Hard to believe, but in just a few years, these girls will be our SOF scholarship applicants. 

Time has a way of flying by... 


I'm feeling a little bit emotionally exhausted today. But it's well earned, and it's well worth it.

Last night was Shannon night at Graham Arena as all the Rochester high school girls teams played. Century sported lime green tape, JM/Lourdes had lime green skate laces and Mayo wore lime green ribbons.

The teams each donated $500 to the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. That $1500 put us over the $100,000 mark. In the four years since Shannon passed, this community, this hockey community has helped us raise this money. I am feeling so humbled this morning by the support we received again last night.

Shannon's friends from each team spoke about her during the on ice presentation. In the stands, there were kids of all ages in Shannon sweatshirts. The U12A team was there, wearing their team gear which sport the Shannon logo. Even the U10 girls were there, wearing their white RYHA jerseys with a winged #9.

Our friends showed up, and Erin's friends showed up, too. We were surrounded by love and support and people who remembered Shannon for her spunk, her wit and her smile.

The best part of the night, the part that finally put me over the edge, was the Mayo HS starting line up. As they announced each position, they saved left wing for last. The PA announcer said, "starting at left wing, the angel among us, Shannon the Cannon".  Mayo started the game with just four skaters on the ice, leaving Shannon's position vacant, honoring her absence.

That brought so many tears for me... it's bringing me tears right now just writing about it.

Mayo promptly went down and scored a goal, going on to win the game. A victory on Shannon night for the Mayo Spartans was only fitting.

Thank you to all who were in attendance last night and those who have supported us along the way. Shannon is with us all, always.

SOF Night at HS Girls Hockey - Jan 14, 2016

Come join us tonight at Graham Arena for Shannon O'Hara Foundation night. All three Rochester girls HS hockey teams will be playing, and SOF merchandise will be for sale.

First game is JM/Lourdes vs. Century at 5:30pm, followed by Mayo vs. Albert Lea at 7:30pm. We will have an on-ice presentation in between games and a chuck-a-puck fundraiser, too.

This is Shannon's senior class... hope to see you all there!

Saturday January 9, 2016

Our first blast of arctic air has arrived... 9 degrees in Roch this morning and the temp is headed even lower tomorrow. Just in time for an outdoor playoff football game for our Vikings. I will be watching from the warm comfort of my basement!

Today, I was all set to sit on my ass and drink coffee in my pajamas all morning when a text came from Kula asking if I wanted to walk around the track indoors for some exercise. I immediately said no, I just wanted to rest. But, with a little cajoling from my husband I got off my ass and went to walk. Good decision. If Kula asks, I should be there...

Kula shaved her head yesterday. Her hair was falling out quickly, and she was ready. Dan and I visited with her in the afternoon before she shaved it, and we checked out her various hats, scarves and her wig. Then, once her hairdresser worked her magic, Kula sent us a picture of her smiling with her beautiful, bald head. She looks good.

This is a whole new normal for her and for me to figure out how to support her. When the supporter becomes the supportee and vice versa, it takes a bit to find our bearings. I hope to be there to walk with her when she's up to it, and to sit by her side when she's not.

Don't get me wrong, Kula is doing great and tolerating her treatment well to this point. She's a healthy lady... except for that cancer thing... It's a marathon, not a sprint and I'll do my best to be a friend over the long haul.

It's strange to walk and talk about treatments and insurance and side effects. I found there was an odd comfort in it today. Kula is in the stage of "doing something" about her cancer. I remember those as good days - we were battling, Shannon was smiling her way through it. Doctors and nurses and technicians rooting you on at every turn.

We now enter our month of Shannon events, starting this Thursday with HS girls hockey and then Friday and Saturday at the first Shannon Cup weekend. We've also been receiving the Shannon Scholarship applications in the mail. The process begins again, the rhythm of our journey repeating itself.

There is comfort in that, too. We are doing something.

"Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most." - Buddha

Another January 6th

Yes, another year has passed since Shannon's passing. Four years, how can it be?

As Erin said last night, that's a more than a quarter of her life. Erin was such a little girl when Shannon passed away. Want proof?

That's Erin as a 10 year old. Erin Now she's creeping up on 15. Shannon never knew her as a volleyball player, or a social butterfly. Erin is about to start driving. Shannon never got to dream about that...

Erin wore her Shannon sweatshirt to school this morning. I told her I hoped her friends could support her today. She told me she just hopes she doesn't cry in public.

Dan called me from Fargo this morning. Wanted to hear my voice today and remind me that we made great kids.

I've been thinking a lot about how different Erin is now than she was back then. Come to think of it, maybe so am I. We've both changed and grown from our experience. Erin is one of the most empathetic teenagers I've ever known. I guess that's the goal, to learn from life's lessons.

So, Dan will stay busy in North Dakota doing business. Erin has school, confirmation and volleyball today. Lots of interaction, but lots of friends along the way.

I plan to buck up and do some work, play tennis and hopefully walk the reservoir with my friend Kula this afternoon. Kula is fresh off chemo treatment #3.  Shit, life is hard sometimes...

But as we've learned, life does go on. You may not believe it's possible. So many people say, "I can't imagine losing a child. I don't know how you go on living."

Well, all I have to do is look at that picture of 10 year-old Erin, and then I know that I must go on. She deserves it.  And, Dan and I deserve to go on living, too. Yes, life changed forever on January 6, 2012. We can never go back to being the people we were before. We will be a little bit broken always. But, you learn to live with the loss. It becomes a part of you, and extra limb that sometimes helps you find your balance.

So, if you have a chance today, hold a good thought for my kids, please. Remember Shannon, and root for Erin...

Monday January 4, 2016

Today it's back to our routines... nothing like jumping right in with BLAST class this morning from 7:45-8:30. Our trainer, Kyle, walked in and said, "Good morning. This is going to suck." He said it with a smile...

Kyle decided that in order to burn more calories, we needed to do activities that we aren't the most efficient at. That meant burpees, bear crawls, and the dreaded weighted sled push. I really do hate the f&*$!@ thing... But, during one of the three reps today, I was able to push it down and back without falling to my knees... believe it or not, that's progress.

Dan and I love our BLAST class buddies - we are literally all in this together. Today, Kula and Ariana joined us. Kula is prepping for chemo #3 tomorrow, but I'll be damned if she didn't push that sled. Ah perspective, right? Seeing Kula do it helped me keep my whining to a minimum.

Ariana heads back to school in California on Wednesday. I know this will be hard for her. She's been by her mom's side as this cancer journey began. I told Ariana, the best thing she can do for her mom is keep plugging away at school. That's what all us moms want, right? For our kids to go and do and become who they are suppose to be. Cancer or not, that's a mom's dream...

Erin managed to get up and out the door without too much grumbling today. She has a busy day with school, drivers ed and then her first practice of the winter volleyball season. She's certainly not easing into it!

Dan and I are both working this morning, I will teach tennis this afternoon, and then Dan hits the road again tomorrow. This is day 18 of us both being home... all day... together. Let's just say we're both looking forward to his trip to Fargo tomorrow...

As I flipped the calendar over to January, lots of Shannon events pop up. Of course, this week brings the anniversary of her passing, but starting next week, we have events the rest of the month to raise money for the foundation in the hopes that Shannon's wish comes true.

"My life is going to mean something, to someone, somewhere."

So here is what's on tap the rest of the month:

Thursday Jan. 14th - SOF night at HS Girls Hockey at Graham Arena
We will be on hand to sell merchandise and have an on ice presentation with the three HS girls       teams in town. This is Shannon's senior class, so it will be special. First game starts at 5:30pm.

Friday-Sunday Jan. 15-17 - Shannon Cup Weekend for 15A & 14B Girls
You can find us at Graham Arena watching the Rochester teams compete. Merchandise will be for sale all day on Saturday Jan. 16.

Monday Jan. 25 - Rochester Amateur Sports Commission Annual Sports Banquet
This is a great event and Dan and I will speak on behalf of the SOF, which will receive the proceeds from the silent auction items. Last year the silent auction raised $9000 for our foundation.

Scott Hamilton, Olympic gold medalist and brain tumor survivor is the featured speaker. If you have any sports memorabilia you'd like to donate, please contact me: info@shannonoharafoundation.org. If you'd like to attend the banquet, tickets are available through the RASC website: http://www.rochsports.org/sportsbanquet.

Friday-Sunday Jan. 29-31 - Shannon Cup Weekend for 10A, 10B, 12A & 12B girls
Again, merchandise will be for sale all day Saturday Jan. 30.

So, just like that, the new year begins. We forge ahead...