Saturday, October 29, 2016

Life, death and the pursuit of happiness... that has all been a part of our week...

Yesterday Dan, Erin and I attended my uncle's funeral. Yes, of course, funerals are sad, but there was comfort in the family all being together. My mom and her 7 remaining brothers all acting as pall bearers... there is still strength in their numbers.

The eulogy and music performed by our family was beautiful and honest. My uncle Scott gave Dan's eulogy and he didn't gloss over the parts of Dan's life that were difficult - the traumatic brain injury that changed him, and his long battle with bi-polar. Honesty is good. We are who we are, and it's important to own it, flaws and all...

Some of the rituals of funerals and burials I could do without, but the family gathering together to remember is worth it.

After the service, Dan and Erin headed back to Rochester so Erin could catch the bus to her section volleyball game in Lakeville. I stayed on in Faribault to visit, and then rode with my parents to the game.

Dan definitely gets a dad of the year nomination: He drove to Faribault for the funeral, drove Erin 60 miles home - even though from Faribault we were only 20 minutes away from the game site - so that she could ride the bus for potentially the last game of the season. Then, he drove the 70 miles up to the game and met me there.

Erin's volleyball season did end last night. The Mayo Spartans went down to Lakeville North in the section quarterfinals. For the six seniors and three senior managers, the end of a big part of their HS experience.

For Erin's class, the realization that they only have one more year of Mayo Volleyball. As I've said before, volleyball is a part of the "after" in our lives. It was a way for Erin's friends to pick her up and get her involved the year that Shannon passed. And now, we're down to one season left.

Time does keep marching on. Thanks, kids and mom squad, for another great VB season.

Saturday October 22, 2016

My uncle Dan passed away today. He had surgery recently to treat colon cancer and his body, ravaged through the years by a traumatic brain injury he suffered, never recovered. He was 64.

Dan was a good uncle to me growing up. Somewhere, there's a 35mm slide of me in a purple Viking snowmobile suit with Dan patiently teaching me how to skate at Wapacuta Park in Faribault. Going to Faribault to see "the uncles" was always fun as a kid.

As I grew older, Dan would come to watch me play basketball in Faribault and Owatonna. I remember him being at the State Basketball tournament to cheer me on... Goodness that was 30 years ago! At many a family occasion (as pictured above) he would dance with his nieces and nephews, of which I am the oldest.  While his life never led him in the direction to have his own kids, he was always up for a game of catch, or swimming, or whatever the nieces and nephews wanted. For this tomboy, that was perfect.

So, my mom is the oldest of the nine kids in her family (she has 8 younger brothers!), but not the first to leave this earth. That's not the way the world is suppose to work, but we know all too well, things don't always go as planned. 

I'm holding a good thought tonight for those who lost their brother: Gwen, Scott, James, Jeff, J.J. Brian, Barry, B.I. ... love to you all.

Rest in peace, Uncle Dan.

Saturday October 15, 2016

I am writing this morning from the courtyard of the Linden Row Inn in Richmond, VA. The hotel is actually comprised of 7 row houses built in the mid-1800's. Today, our nephew Brendan is marrying Hannah here in her hometown, and the O'Haras are represented well!

We spent the morning walking around Richmond, from the statehouse to the VCU campus and through the monuments of American Revolution and Civil War figures. A walk through these old streets reminds us that there are amazing places to see in this country.and that we have an amazing history. Despite what you hear on the news these days, America is already great...

The election coverage this week has been maddening and depressing. As a woman, raising a daughter, this is especially so. I am enjoying this little weekend getaway not only from Minnesota, but from the 24 hour news cycle...

Erin isn't with us, and she's suffering from some FOMO... that's Fear of Missing Out for you old people... Erin's JV volleyball team is in a two day tournament this weekend and she didn't want to leave her team hanging. She is choosing her commitment to team over fun with the cousins. Sometimes, you just can't do it all.

While Erin doesn't need taking care of, our needy pets do, so Papa Harkins is holding down the fort on Willow Lane. We're lucky to have him back as a Minnesota resident to help us out. Papa reports that Sylvie has decided she likes to snuggle with him.

So, today will be a day of family fun. A celebration of friendship and love. The way the world should be...

Sunday October 2, 2016

How can I sum up what's happened in the last four days...

Thursday, Erin got her first chance to play in a varsity volleyball match. She ended up being put in to serve during crunch time at 8-8 in the fifth game (to 15)... She served five in a row, including three aces to help the Spartans pull ahead. They went on to win the game, and all of Erin's buddies were pumped for her... she is well liked, for sure...

Friday brought homecoming festivities... a pepfest to crown a king and queen, then on to the parade and finally the football game... During the parade, the volleyball team all rode on a float together and and threw out candy...  the Mom Squad was out in full force.  A group of us volleyball moms dubbed ourselves the Mom Squad. I know it's not cool to give yourself a nickname, but we like it and we own it... So, to surprise the girls as they went by on the float, we showed up like this:

Oh, if only our kids thought we were as funny as we think we are...

Saturday morning brought the 10th Annual Brains Together For a Cure walk. As I've said before, we started supporting this home-grown organization the year Shannon was diagnosed. That makes this our 5th go round... We again felt so much support from our family and friends:

Team Shannon. Some of these people have been with us every year. Some of them are new to our gang. Some of them are a part of the Mom Squad. Erin had her volleyball teammates along side as one of them has recently watched a sibling battle a brain tumor, but thankfully, the prognosis is good.

Brains Together added a run to their event this year, and Dan had his own squad to pull him through the 10K:

Saturday was a whirlwind which involved homecoming prep... hair and makeup are not a part of my skill set! Luckily, you can pay people for such things... Erin went to the dance with her friend, John, and her pals Lexie and Hallie and their dates. The girls looked beautiful and the guys looked handsome...



Need less to say, they clean up nicely! 

An added bonus this weekend was having Grandma and Papa spend some time with us. They were here for Erin's volleyball game on Thursday and could take part in the walk on Saturday morning. I'm glad they are moving back. They are closing on their townhouse in Burnsville on Tuesday, so their stint as vagabonds is coming to an end...

This morning, our day started at 6am, as Dan, Erin and I headed off to the Ryder Cup for the final day of action. Needless to say, when we put our name in the lottery to get tickets 12 months ago, we didn't know that it would be the day after homecoming!

Erin piled into the car, slept for two hours and was ready to roll... a quick shuttle ride to the course and we found ourselves on the driving range and practice green to watch the best players in the world warm up: Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler... we saw them all.

Erin really wanted to see Rory play, so we made our way along the ropes on hole #1. After finding a position where we could see them walk by, Erin glanced over her shoulder just in time to see... Niall Horan from One Direction. He was making his way to get inside the ropes and follow his fellow Irishman along.

Erin tapped me on the shoulder and said "Mom, there's Niall".  Erin acted quickly and went right over to him and said "Niall, can I take a picture with you?"

Niall took exactly one picture - with Erin - before he was swept away by his body guard and ducked under the ropes. For those not familiar with Niall, this is the equivalent of getting your picture taken with Paul McCartney... Erin's day was made...

We positioned ourselves on top of a picnic table where we could watch each group play the first hole. Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood... The best players in the world just kept coming...

I won't bore you with details, but we made our way around the course and managed to see some great golf. Being there to hear the roars and to cheer when we saw people making putts... Dan and I talked about how much Shannon would have loved that. She would have been all in on rooting for the Americans and celebrating the victory. Erin loved it, too, and thanked us for taking her. How cool is that?

We are grateful for the fun we have together. We are grateful for friends and family. Life is going by so fast. I want to savor every moment.