Saturday Dec. 23, 2017

Winter break has arrived and all three of us are in need of some down time. A nasty head cold has gotten all of us, so sleeping in and napping during the day are in order. I'm ok with that.

It has been a busy stretch of school activities for Erin. The Mayo HS student body does a holiday fundraiser for the local women's shelter and Dorothy Day House each year. This year, they raised over $60,000. So amazing and I love seeing the joy that these kids get from giving back to the community. It was a great way to end the 2017 school year.

Dan and I had a fundraising opportunity this week as well. The Lourdes Girls Hockey team held a Shannon O'Hara Foundation night on Thursday. We were presented with a donation of more than $1500 which included $500 from the local Potbelly's franchise which had an SOF day and donated 25% of the proceeds.

It is truly humbling to see the generosity and feel the support for what we are doing. What Shannon's death - and life - has allowed us to do. I need to remember the why.

So, the holidays are here again. It's always bittersweet. There is always something missing. 5 Christmases without Shannon.

But, there is joy. I love the shopping and trappings of the holiday. So does Erin. Today we will bake some holiday treats and listen to cheesy Christmas music. Same as it ever was. But different.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday. Enjoy the time with those you love. In the end, that's all that matters.

Friday Dec. 8, 2017

The cold temps, a dusting of snow and the decorations on our street have brought the holidays to the forefront in a hurry. We've been so busy that we have a Christmas tree, but no decorations on it yet. This is way late for me and my anxiety over getting things done on time is kicking in to high gear! I haven't bought a single present or sent out Christmas cards yet. Erin tells me she'll have time after school today to help string the lights and hang the ornaments, so that will be a step in the right direction.

We're a little behind schedule since we've been traveling. After returning from our Thanksgiving vacation, we worked for three days and then headed out again to do college visits in New Jersey and Philadelphia. A bonus was staying with my aunt and uncle, who are great hosts and even better company.

Erin has now applied to 10 schools, visited 8, been accepted to 4, and awaits decisions from the other 6. She's got a definite first choice, but we're not talking about it until an acceptance letter comes!

Touring college campuses is fun. I am all in on this process... Dan and Erin might say I'm over the top... I just like to be prepared with facts, figures, looking at the map, etc. Yes, I realize I am not the one who is going to school...

So while we wait for acceptance decisions, it's time to turn our focus to the holidays. It's always an interesting time of year. Joy and excitement, but also a layer of sadness for us with each Christmas that passes without Shannon. She was here so long ago.

The holidays are a tough time for people who have lost loved ones. Not that we don't miss our loved ones every day, but it's more acute in times of celebration, when we are taking stock of all the good in our lives. And there is plenty of good. But something is always missing. And, I think, the idea of Erin growing up and moving on to college is making me think even more about Shannon.

We've in the midst of our holiday giving campaign again for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, and it makes going to the mailbox a joy each day. Those who are willing to give in memory of Shannon are a reminder that she was here, she mattered, and her spirit carries on.

"It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty." - Goethe

Thanksgiving Day 2017

We are enjoying our fourth consecutive non-traditional Thanksgiving. Using all of Dan's Marriott points to enjoy some R & R at our favorite resort in Palm Desert, CA.

Golf, sun and time together without the distractions of work and school. That's something for which to be thankful. With Erin in college next year, we don't know that this will be in the plans in 2018, so we are enjoying every minute of it this time around.

On this day, we take stock of the good things in our lives. A day about gratitude.

I am thankful for our families who have supported us and root for our happiness.

I am thankful for friends who have become family.

I am thankful for the ladies in my life. So many groups of women - tennis friends, volleyball mom squad and the hockey moms - who I get to call friends.

I am thankful for a job I love that keeps me engaged and learning new things.

I am thankful for Shannon. I was lucky to be her mom and am grateful I get to carry on her spirit.

Most of all, I am thankful for Dan and Erin. They are my everything. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope your day is filled with laughter, love, friendship and family.

Shannon O'Hara Foundation Night - Nov. 16 - Rochester Rec Center

Just a friendly reminder that we will be celebrating HS girls hockey tomorrow night at the Rec Center. It's a doubleheader:

     Century vs. Mankato East - 5:30pm
     JM vs. Mayo - 7:30pm

Some of the Lourdes girls hockey team will be on hand as well, volunteering at our merchandise table.

New Shannon gear will be available: hoodies, 1/4 zip, ladies baseball T's

Youth hockey players who wear their jersey to the games, get in free with a paid adult.

See you tomorrow night at the Rec Center!

Saturday Nov. 4, 2017

Dan and I took Sunny the Wonderdog for a walk around the reservoir this morning. Cold and wet... and invigorating. It's always been our place to walk and talk about life. It's a Shannon place for sure.

Today's talk was about Erin, college, jobs. The usual life stuff. These are uncertain times where we don't know what next fall will look like. Will we be going somewhere out east to visit Erin? Will she change her mind and decide to stay closer? Where will she get in? How much will it cost? I'm so not good at uncertainty...

Erin has transitioned from the end of volleyball season to her first winter without a sport since elementary school. No offseason volleyball, so more time to work at the RAC and keep her social life humming. Let's just say, she's succeeding!

Girls hockey season started this week and I had the privilege of talking to some of the teams at their pre-season meetings. This year's senior class are the last girls who played on teams with Shannon. And, the youngest girls on these high school teams grew up playing in the Shannon Cup tournaments. So, a time of transition. Walking in to a room and seeing three different girls wearing Shannon gear is pretty cool.

Speaking of Shannon gear, new stuff has arrived! We have a new 1/4 zip for men and women, a new hockey hoodie and a baseball t for women. 

We will be selling Shannon gear at two upcoming girls hockey dates:

     Nov. 16 - Rec Center
          Century vs. Mankato East - 5:30pm
          JM vs. Mayo - 7:30pm

     Dec. 21 - Graham Arena 
          JM vs. Owatonna - 5:30pm
          Lourdes vs. Eden Prairie - 7:30

So, another hockey season is upon us. We're ready.

Sunday Oct. 22, 2017

Has it been 3 weeks since I sat down to share my thoughts? Looking at the list of posts on this blog, I guess so.

Fall is in full swing here in MN. The leaves are flaming out in brilliant colors and then giving way to what comes next. I saw on the news last night that snowflakes appeared on the weather forecast for later this week.

The volleyball regular season ended this weekend and playoffs begin on Wednesday. It's down to the win or go home portion of the season. Hard to believe 6 years of volleyball is down to the final weeks. It's been a joy to watch Erin and her friends play and I'm going to miss it terribly. Erin will, too. While she still has a high school golf season left, and potentially golf in college, it's not the same feeling as playing a team sport like volleyball. We've enjoy (almost) every minute of it.

But, the season's not over yet. Mayo should get a first round home playoff game this Wednesday.

Simultaneous with the volleyball season has been college application season! Erin is just about done with me prodding and cajoling her to get things done. Erin is applying to 5 schools that have direct entry Physician Assistant's programs and another 4 schools that have health sciences or nursing options. Thank goodness for the Common App which makes applying to multiple schools an easy task.

Because of the early deadlines for the PA programs (Nov. 1), Erin is applying to schools she hasn't yet seen. This is not the most efficient way to do things, but it's the best we could do during volleyball. In December, me, Dan and Erin will make a trip to NJ/PA to look at the schools to which Erin applied. We already visited the NYC schools that are on her list, so after Dec., she will have seen all the schools she's considering.

There are no guarantees of getting into a direct entry PA program as it is very competitive. But, Erin's done what she could to beef up her resume and whatever happens, she's going to go to college somewhere :)

So, senior year clicks along with this strange dual role for Erin. Doing things at Mayo for the last time (homecoming, volleyball season) while planning for what's ahead.

Dan and I are doing our best to enjoy the moments as they pass and start preparing for what's ahead, too. What will we do in our empty nest? Erin is sure I can't come to college with her...

But, lots of ground to cover before that. Two weeks left in first quarter, volleyball playoffs and college applications to be sent. When all of that is said and done, our annual Thanksgiving trip to Palm Desert. We will all be ready for some R & R.

Saturday September 30, 2017

I've started and stopped writing a post here over the past week. I just haven't been able to articulate my feelings. But here goes...

Life is good and amazing and painful all at the same time. We are all along for the ride with Erin. Senior year is going as planned - she likes her classes, homecoming was a blast, the volleyball team is really having fun together. The next step in college applications and planning a few more college visits. It's all really good stuff.

I knew that I'd feel anxious and some sadness about watching Erin go through things for the last time, anticipating that next year at this time, she'll be off on her own and our house will be a little more empty.

What I didn't anticipate is that watching Erin progress through senior year would bring up so many feelings about Shannon. A sneak peek at Erin's senior picture this week was a trigger to wondering what would Shannon have looked like? I've been missing her so acutely lately.

I spent some time the other day updating our foundation website (shameless plug: I added this year's scholarship application and added some upcoming hockey days where the SOF will be there.  While I was there, I decided to watch the YouTube video of Shannon. I don't remember the last time I watched it. Damn, she was so little.

I hadn't really articulated to Dan these feelings I've been having, experiencing the loss of Shannon's future as I watch Erin. Dan came home from his week on the road in Michigan and told me he had a customer ask him about the lime green bracelet he was wearing. Dan told him about losing Shannon and the foundation we started and since he was in the middle of showing the customer the online tools he could use, Dan toggled over to the foundation website and played the Shannon video for his customer. On the same day I watched it, Dan watched, too.

I don't pretend to understand how the universe works, but Dan and I were meant to start a dialogue about Shannon this week.

I don't want to take anything away from Erin's senior year or her experience. But I have to acknowledge for myself that it brings up emotions about Shannon. And, it's a reminder that we will experience the loss of Shannon over and over and over in our lives as we watch Erin grow.

For my job, I do a lot of work with podcasts, and that's led me to listening to more and more podcasts when I'm working or walking or driving. I started listening to a new podcast last week - "Terrible, Thanks for Asking". Yes, that's the title. A little dark humor answer to the common question "How are you?"

The host, Nora McInerny, lost her husband, Aaron, to brain cancer. She wrote a blog during the journey and a book after he was gone. Sound familiar? She dives into what grief is, how you can appear normal to the outside world, how you go on and how some days, it's all just too much.

Here's a passage on how she thinks about her grief:

I didn't totally hate it, and I still don't. It's like a bruise I get to push, a pain that reminds me that what I had and what I lost is real. It's the price I paid for loving deeply and for letting myself to be loved. It's the evidence that Aaron was here and that he's really gone.

There's a part of me that's mad to feel like I'm actively grieving again, 6 years later. But, maybe the universe is reminding me that grief is a part of love. It's a way of keeping Shannon in my life. I can be busy and happy and enjoying life and still feel the loss. Happiness and grief aren't mutually exclusive.

So, on we go with this journey called life.


Next weekend is the Brains Together for a Cure walk. While we aren't actively participating this year, it's a wonderful organization and I hope, if you have the time, you will support them. For more information, visit:

Sunday September 17, 2017

The first two weeks of senior year have been a success for Miss E. She is liking her classes and is fully engaged in high school experience. Dan and I see her briefly most days... when she needs a shower or a meal.

There are student government and honor society meetings, there are boys and girls soccer games to attend, and the first home football game happened on Friday. That involved tailgating and face paint and hoarse voices the next morning.

This week is Homecoming which means dress up days, Friday pep fest, parade and football, and then the dinner and the dance on Saturday. Erin is going with her friend Pujan. Their friend group is made up of fun, smart kids, so it should be a great night.

After a volleyball fundraiser breakfast yesterday. Erin came home to shower... and to ask for money... and then headed to the U of M to visit her friend, Liz. Liz has made the transition to college kid, but that doesn't mean that she and Erin aren't still connected. Technology has changed the "going away to college" experience. I think Liz and Erin talk every day!

So, Erin drove her herself to the Twin Cities for the first time, went to the Gopher football game and slept in the dorm with Lizzy last night. Erin is living life to the fullest. Dan and I are filled with joy watching her do her thing.

I find myself in a strange place, trying to savor every moment but ruminating about what's ahead. Senior year is already going fast. College applications will happen in the next 6 weeks and then, the waiting game and big decisions are ahead.

It's the natural order of things. But, I am a rookie at this, a jumble of emotions and worries and excitement. One day at a time, right? Still, after all these years of practice, that's not my strong suit.

But, mostly I feel joy seeing Erin grow. She's navigated a childhood no one would want. She not only survived, but she is thriving. I know I will be sad and lonely when she's off at school. But, it will be an accomplishment to celebrate, too. Somewhere, under my anxieties and worries about what's ahead, I know that to be true.

"Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last first day of school

The beginning of the end. Erin began her senior year and these are the obligatory first day of school photos. But, if you only knew what I had to go through to get these...

Yesterday, Erin and I did some last minute school shopping and secured the all important homecoming dress. (Homecoming date is still TBD :) So, we spent our labor day heading off to the MOA.

A successful trip was only dampened by the news when we arrived home that Dan had fallen off the garage roof. While cleaning out the gutters, with a leaf blower backpack on, the ladder slipped and he was left hanging from the garage gutter momentarily before falling onto his back on our patio.

When we arrived home, he was sitting in a chair in the backyard. He refused to go to the emergency room last night. He just took Advil and went to bed. This morning, it was evident that he needed more than Advil.

So, while Erin was getting ready for school, I was taking Dan to the doctor. In typical Rochester fashion, the doctor was someone with whom we were acquainted. I taught his 3 kids tennis. We know his wife. The doctor immediately smiled and shook his head. He told Dan, "Sometimes I'm a dumb guy, too." He said Dan must have been suffering from "testosterone poisoning". Ha! I'm going to have to remember that one.

Luckily, we now have our Mayo Clinic primary care doctor just a mile away at the SE Clinic. As we were visit with the doctor, Erin texted that she was ready and leaving for school. I told her WAIT! So, I explained to the doc hat I had to run home and take a first day of school pic. And that's exactly what I did.

Now, this either makes me a bad wife, or a good mom.

I snapped my photos, said goodbye to Erin and was back to Dan before he was done with the examination. X-rays were negative and tests for kidney function were normal. So no lacerated kidneys and no broken bones. The pain can be managed with a short course of narcotics. He should be on the mend in a few days. (Unfortunately, there is no cure for testosterone poisoning...) As I pushed him in the wheelchair, I told him it was about 25 years too early for this!

On a brighter note, Erin came home after volleyball practice, ate dinner, changed clothes and she's off to the boys soccer game. She said her teachers are great, she's got friends in her classes and it's going to be a good year. That's what a mom likes to hear.

The beginning of the end of high school is off to a good start. 

Saturday August 26, 2017

The high school volleyball season kicks off today with the Mayo Spartans taking on SW MN Christian this afternoon.

Volleyball today, senior pictures on Monday and school starts the day after Labor Day. Erin's senior year schedule is set with all the classes she needs to graduate. It's the beginning of the end.

But, this is the way it's suppose to be. Kids are suppose to grow up, move out, move on. It's the natural order of things and I'm going to embrace it knowing that not every kid gets this chance.

As I've said here before, volleyball has only been a part of our after... after Shannon. This group of senior girls supported Erin that first spring that she didn't have a sister, and they convinced her to come and try a new sport. Thank goodness for these girls and their families.

And so it begins. Yes, it's the beginning of the end. But this end leads to yet another beginning. Erin's ready and that means Dan and I are ready, too.

I'm a huge podcast listener, but lately, they all sound the same. People trying to find meaning and reason for the direction our country is headed. It's sad and scary and I hate that we are becoming used to it. Denigrating others is becoming status quo. The hateful noise makes me want to focus all that much more on my little, personal world.

So, I skipped the podcasts this week and turned back to music. My old standards including Coldplay, Jack Johnson, Mumford and Sons brought me comfort.

One song in particular, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise by the Avett Brothers seemed particularly appropriate.

There's a darkness upon me that's flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what's wrong and what's right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I'm frightened by those that don't see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone, you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

Saturday August 12, 2017

I am thrilled to have a Saturday morning of quiet here in the house. This was a back-to-reality week for me after being on vacation for 10 days!

Our time at Lake Hubert was as good as it gets. Perfect weather and friends to share it with... Erin was in heaven and seeing her happy still always makes me happy.

When our week at the O'Hara cabin ended, Dan Erin and Sunny the Wonderdog headed home and I went on to vacation part deux - a family reunion on Madeline Island with my mom's relatives.

Aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed... it was a group of 55 of us! I got to spend a lot of time with my mom reminiscing about her time as a child spent on the island. Fun to hear old stories from her and her siblings. And believe me, some of them have a knack for storytelling!

Now we are home, summer adventures are drawing to a close, and the fall schedule is just around the corner.

Erin starts the high school volleyball season on Monday. Her final season of volleyball, although I could see her playing intramurals in college if time allows.

I admit, I have a little melancholy these days as we think about things being "the last time". High school goes so fast and big life changes for all of us are just around the corner. I promised myself I would enjoy the moments and not worry about them ending. We'll see how successful I am at enjoying senior year and not thinking ahead to what's next.


I've been banned from discussing it this whole week. Last weekend, I came home and brought up that Erin should get started on her to-do list - writing her essay, doing the Common Application, following up with admissions contacts, following up with golf coaches. Needless to say, my suggestion was not well received!

So, I made a promise that I would give her one last week of summer. But come Monday...

Anyone who has been through this process recently - applying to college - knows that it's more stressful now than ever. The cost of attending is so high that the decision carries more weight than ever. And, kids travel far and wide these days to go to school, so there are so many options. How do you narrow it down?

So, starting Monday, she will begin that process. I think writing the essay is daunting. How do you share yourself and tell people who you are? Imagine being Erin. How do you talk about the defining moment of your life, losing your sister when you were just 10? Erin doesn't want pity, but she has to find a way to share her story.

It's exciting and scary and I think the future is so bright for Erin. It's hard for her to see that now, but in time she'll realize the world is her oyster.

So, we'll do our best to enjoy the moments along the way.

"The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln

Shannon's 19th birthday

We are at Shannon's favorite spot, the O'Hara cabin on Lake Hubert, on what would have been her 19th birthday. Morning coffee in my lime green adirondack next to the Shannon rock is the perfect place to reflect on so many memories of her days up here.

The excitement she would have when we'd first arrive. How she was always ready to go jump in the lake, no matter the weather. Hours and hours and hours of swimming and making up silly games in the water. She was a fish.

She and Erin would negotiate who got the bed by the window on the porch. Shannon always came out on top in that negotiation. Trips to our favorite breakfast spot, trips to the grocery store for s'mores fixings and maybe a movie rental. Trips to Rafferty's pizza and the Chocolate Ox for candy. This place is full of Shannon memories.

I know that Shannon wanted us to go on living after she was gone. She told Dan and I that in her last days. "You have to be there for Erin so she can have a good life..."

Erin's life is full of love and laughter. Not just with Dan and me, but with the friends she has made and chooses to surround herself with on a daily basis. Many of those people are here with us this weekend. Erin's two best pals, Lexie and Liz, plus their families and another friend Marcus have joined us. 13 people here to celebrate Shannon's birthday with us. She'd love that.

Shannon has blessed us with so much. She continues to impact our lives in ways we are still figuring out. She changed us for the better in so many ways. Our relationships are deeper and our lives are full of meaning. We live with the hole in our hearts always. The pain never goes away. It ebbs and flows and sometimes hits us when we least expect it. It's ok to feel it, though. She deserves to be remembered.

Happy birthday, Shannon.

MGG Swings for Shannon raises $17,280

My oh my, what a day we had on Monday. The weather was beautiful, the people were happy and we had a great event.

To see the diverse group of people willing to give their time and money to support the foundation fills my soul. We had teachers, SOF board members, tennis friends, former teammates of Shannon, current teammates of Erin, scholarship winners... so many friendly faces.

If you'd like to see more photos, you can find your foursome on the Shannon O'Hara Foundation website.

It's always a big build up the the event and I'm always a bit relieved when it's over. But, each and every year I'm proud of what we can accomplish. Shannon continues to make a difference. 

Time for a little break now. One more week of work and then some cabin time. I'm counting the days...

Monday July 17, 2017 - MGG Swings for Shannon

Today is the day - our summer fundraiser. We have 140 golfers signed up and the weather looks beautiful. Shannon is taking care of us!

The mix of golfers is wonderful: family, SOF board members, former teachers of Shannon and Erin, former MGG golfers, my tennis friends and even one of our scholarship winners. The list goes on and on...

Erin is not with us this year. She is off at a team camp with her Mayo Volleyball team for the next four days. While she is sad to be missing the MGG tournaments, she had to make a choice and Dan and I support her 100%. She gets to lead her own life. This is just the beginning...

So, the course is ready, the prizes are all prepped, I've got my lime green shirt and we're ready to go.

Sharing her story, raising money for the foundation, being together in fellowship all still feels right. We carry on in your memory, Shannon.

June 29... drumroll... my birthday!

The title of this post is intended to be sarcastic. For those of you who know me, bringing attention to my birthday is not my usual M.O.

But, today I have a slow day and time to write and think and feel, so blogging it where I find myself. I am home alone until this afternoon. I'm streaming Jack Johnson radio and enjoying the sounds of the songbirds in the trees. Lovely.

In the age of social media, people know when it's your birthday and messages have steadily been coming in. It is nice to feel seen and loved. My mom, techie that she is, even posted a picture of me as a toddler to Facebook! Do I look like Shannon or Erin? Maybe a little bit of both.

In my mind, my birthday signals the beginning of the 4th of July holiday. Someone please tell me that the 4th of July is not the middle of the summer. I feel like we're just getting started.

Dan will arrive home tonight and make dinner for us and our friends. It looks to be a beautiful day for sitting and chatting.

Last weekend, Erin and I had a girls trip to Pelican Lake with the senior squad/mom squad. There are six girls who are incoming seniors on this year's volleyball team and us moms like to think of ourselves as a team, too.  While the weather didn't exactly cooperate, we had a great time and the girls managed to get in the lake a few times. (There may have been a late night swim where clothing was optional).

This crew has been with Erin, and me, since Shannon passed away. That first spring after Shannon passed, this group of girls convinced Erin to give volleyball a try. She was brutal that first year and couldn't get a serve over the net, but being surrounded by this group helped her heal.

Year by year, Erin got better and now, as a senior, she believes she can play a regular role on the varsity volleyball team. Volleyball has been a big positive in our life after Shannon.

Wait... I was talking about me and my birthday! Just kidding. Any mom would rather talk about her kids as an extension of themselves. It's what we do.

We came home from Pelican on Monday, Erin played in a golf tournament Tues. (just to brag a little, she won her age division with a career best 74 :), worked yesterday and today, and then tomorrow she heads off the the Girls Junior National Volleyball Tournament in Minneapolis with her club team. This weekend will bring an end to the 8 month club season. Uff da! Lots of reps for Erin, which was her goal, but she's ready to be done with club ball and focus on Mayo VB.

Erin and I spent some time last week organizing college thoughts. Erin is exploring the option of college golf, so we made a list of schools that might offer the degree she wants and a chance to play. We'll see where it goes. It's an exciting/scary/nerve wracking time...

Erin leaving the nest has always just been a concept, but now I feel like the days are numbered. Her friends who graduated from high school this year have been doing their orientation days and creating their schedules for their fall semester at college. A year from now, that will be Erin. I'm not ready yet. I hope I can get there.

Erin and I have a special bond. Our circumstances mean it's often just the two of us. She left me a handwritten note on my desk today. I'm going to keep it forever.

Happy Birthday Mom

I know birthdays aren't a big deal for you, but just know this crappy card doesn't do you justice.

I can't thank you enough for everything you do for me. You live a double life as my best friend, but also my mom and role model as well. I aspire to be half the woman you are someday. You somehow manage to be kind and compassionate as well as funny and kick-ass.

I love you because you're an amazing woman and person, and I'll never be able to thank the world enough for giving me you as my mom.

I hope your 48th is one of the best.

Love, E

Friday June 16, 2017

We now have three cars and three people working in this house, so it's a bit like Grand Central Station!

It's only going to get worse when Erin starts her summer volleyball workouts with her Mayo teammates next week. After playing on separate teams this spring, it's time to get the band back together.

Erin has started her first ever job, work for the City of Rochester Park and Rec department as an instructor with the First Tee program. She's teaching golf and life lessons to kids every day from 7am to 2pm. So far, five days in, she loves it.

She had to join the real world by filling out a W-2, agreeing to a background check, all the fun stuff that goes along with being hired. Good life lessons for her.

Luckily the job is flexible enough to fit her busy schedule. She gave them the days she could work, and they said OK. This was one week where she was available for all five days, so nothing like jumping right in.

Erin came home and shared a story yesterday. She had this pair of sisters in her group and Erin thinks the younger one has the chance to be better than the older sister. Anyway, the younger one was confessing to Erin that she never beats her sister at anything and that the big sister is always better. Erin told the little girl "My big sister is better than me at most things. But not at golf." The little girl's eyes lit up and said "Really? How much older is your sister?" "Two years, same as your sister is to you." The little girl was happy and said maybe golf will be my thing.

Erin teared up as she told me. It was the first time in a long time that I heard Erin sharing any Shannon stories with someone who doesn't already know. Erin's life since Shannon passed has been filled with people who know her story and nothing needs to be said.

But, as Erin gets closer to leaving the nest, she will need to figure out how to include her sister in who she is, how to share and when. Writing a college application essay will happen soon, and Shannon is maybe on Erin's mind. It's quite a story for Erin to tell. It's part of who she is today.

Yesterday, a Shannon and Erin story was enough to make a little girl's day. Perfect.

Another exchange yesterday was a little more light hearted. Erin has a 30 minute lunch break and she send me and Dan a photo of her and the other instructors sitting around a computer monitor, watching the US Open golf tournament during their break. Dan, who is in FL at a sales team retreat, quickly responded with a picture of his laptop with the US Open streaming on it. Second later, I sent them a photo of my "office" - my laptop on the kitchen counter with the kitchen TV tuned to the tournament!

Father's day weekend is here. This will come as no surprise, but Dan wants to play golf with me and Erin and then watch the final round of the US Open from the comfort of our family room. Works for me...

Monday June 5, 2017

Today was a day filled with all the things that make parenting the toughest job in the world. Wanting what's best for your kids, wanting them to achieve their goals, wanting them to reap the reward of their hard work.

Erin had an amazing junior golf season, becoming her team's number one golfer, making all conference for the second year in a row and breaking 80 for the first time with a career best 77 at the conference tournament.

The section tournament is a two day event played on a difficult course in Cannon Falls. One team and 5 individuals qualify for state. Erin was 7th after the first day, putting herself in a position for a shot at state. When all was said and done, she missed a trip to the state tournament by one stroke. One damn stroke.

Erin is only a junior and will have a chance again next year, but that's not a discussion for today...

Now, Erin has felt pain worse than losing out on a state tournament bid. But she should be allowed to just hurt like any kid would in this situation. Not everything should have to be viewed through the lens of losing Shannon.

Knowing how much she would hurt made Dan and I hurt. Erin kept it together as well as could be expected. In the comfort of our home, she let it go... the disappointment is a weight she will carry for a while, I'm sure.

But, today was also a day to celebrate my kid. Erin tried the best she could. She kept fighting even when it wasn't going exactly as planned. She rooted for her playing partner from Winona, who is a friend. She birdied the last hole to give herself a chance. She was happy for her teammate who made it. She was happy for her senior teammate who shot a personal record today. She thanked Papa Harkins for coming to watch. She hugged her coach through the tears and thanked him, too.

At 16, you don't feel that being a good person is more important than going to state. That it will serve you well in life. At 48 (almost) I have that longer view perspective. It doesn't make today less painful,   really, but it does give me hope that there are bigger and better things ahead for Miss E...

"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you" - Mary Tyler Moore

Wednesday May 24, 2017

Erin had a goal this golf season - to break 80 for the first time. As Erin explained to her non-golfing friend, you want to get the lowest score you can!

Erin had been breaking 40 in some 9 hole meets, but hadn't been able to "go low" in an 18 hole event. Here in the O'Hara household, you'll hear lots of golf lingo. The three of us are always trying to go low... I'm afraid my days of glory (if I ever had them) have passed me by. Dan and Erin are both better than me now.

On Monday, Dan walked and watched Erin in the Jewel Invite in Lake City. She played some really good golf, but had a couple tough holes at the end and finished with 82. Still, her best score of the year.

Until yesterday. In the Big Nine Conference meet at Mississippi National in Red Wing, Erin shot a career best 77, including a one over par back nine. The MGG team had it's best ever day under coach Myhro shooting 333, and finishing ahead of Winona and Northfield, two teams we lost to during the regular season. MGG finished second as a team behind state champion Red Wing.

It was my turn to walk and watch Erin yesterday. It sprinkled and rained most of the day, but neither of us cared.

People ask me "Do you watch a golf meet?" If you're like me and Dan, yes. There is nothing more enjoyable - and nerve wracking - than walking along for 18 holes and watching Erin play. I got a little melancholy yesterday thinking there's only one more year in Erin's high school career.

All that's left of this golf season is the Section Tournament starting June 1st. But, we've got some ground to cover before then...

Dan left yesterday for a 9 day tour of Michigan: Work, then play, then more work. After this week's work is done, he has a guy's golf weekend at a Michigan resort with a championship golf course. Then, to make the most of his time, he will stay in Michigan early next week to see customers again. 9 days is a long time to be away from home, even for a traveling salesman. I hope he packed enough underwear...

There are just eight school days left for Erin and then finals. She's got two physics projects, a Human Geography final project, and AP Literature final project and then exams in Math, French, and Physics. Oh, and she misses two of those 8 days for the section golf tournament!

Junior year is a crusher for kids, so I'm hoping she can make it to the end relatively unscathed. She's close.

Erin's got a summer job lined up working at The First Tee, teaching kids golf lessons. She's got a full slate of volleyball and golf laid out for the summer as well. We talked about senior pictures and college applications and... uff da... I need to stop. One thing - one day - at a time.

As for me, I'm just doing my thing... working and running the homestead as best I can. Everybody's happy so that means, I'm happy, too. It's a mother's role. And I'm OK with that.

Mother's Day 2017

Happy Mother's Day to all who mother, support mothers, are mothered... that means all of you!

Today doesn't feel bittersweet as it has in the past. I don't have an explanation. I don't miss Shannon less than I did last year. Maybe it's the passage of more time. Maybe it's my ongoing work to stay in the present and enjoy today. Maybe it's Miss E who is thriving and allowing me to really enjoy being her mother. She thanks me often and tells me she loves me every night before bed.

My own mother is back in Minnesota now, and able to be present for things now - holidays and Erin's activities. We have the three generations together more often now, and that feels good.

So, today is a day to feel good about who I am and where I'm at and to celebrate the fact that I'm being the best mom I can be.

This week gave me a chance to see my kid in action, doing things she loves.

Erin had her best day ever on the golf course, shooting 38 in a 9 hole meet on Thursday. First time she's broken 40 in a competitive event. When Dan and I were saying to her that it's too bad she didn't get to play 18 on that day, her response was priceless. "No, I'm glad it was only 9 holes. I finished bogey, bogey, bogey so I was kind of captain crumble!" That made us laugh.

The other big activity of the week was Mayo prom. Prom is not just a dinner and dance. The necessary steps to get to the dinner and dance include: going with your date to get his tux and accessories to match your dress, ordering flowers, getting your nails done, getting your hair done, having a friend do your make up, getting dressed together with friends, then pictures in a pretty location, more pictures at the school with other friends who weren't in your initial picture group, and on and on...

It is fun to see them all dressed up and looking beautiful. Erin's group included her two best girlfriends, Lexie and Liz, and her best guy pals as well. Erin and her friend, John, looked lovely together.

While they look stunning in their formal poses, my favorite pictures of the night were Erin, Lexie and Liz and their lovely spirits on full display...

With friends like these, Erin's life is good. Seeing my kid happy makes my life good, too. 

Happy Mother's Day to me...

Thursday May 4, 2017

I awoke this morning to bright sunshine. It has been many days since I remember that sensation! We have had a gray, wet spring so far, but it looks like a nice stretch of weather through this weekend. Thankfully, we will have time at home to enjoy it. Life has been a whirlwind lately...

Last week, Erin had a golf meet Monday, then went to volleyball practice. I'm not sure how she's maintaining her grades, but she is! Thursday, her volleyball team headed to Minneapolis for a 3 day, weekend tournament. Erin stayed behind to compete in Thursday's golf meet and then would join her team on Friday morning.

Thursday the temp barely reached 40 degrees, but the girls played. It snowed on them. They kept going. There aren't too many high school sports that require 4 + hours of concentration in extreme conditions. If you can play high school golf in MN, you can do anything!

Erin finished her round at 7pm, shooting 85. She was the meet medalist for the first time in her career. After that, home to shower, eat a pizza and pack. The alarm woke us up at 5:30am and we were out the door at 5:45, headed for the Minneapolis Convention Center. 13 hours after finishing her round of golf, Erin was on the volleyball court competing with her club team.

When Erin made the decision to play on this off-season volleyball team, we knew it would be tough to juggle it all once golf season started. But, Erin's goal is to be a contributing part of next year's varsity volleyball team at Mayo, and this is her way to get the touches she needs to improve. She is determined, and mama bear here will do whatever I can to help her achieve her goals. Even if it means driving to Minneapolis at 5:45am on a Friday!

The weekend volleyball tournament was fun. I stayed downtown Minneapolis for a little Jen-cation. Dan, who got home Thursday night just in time to have pizza with us and say hello and goodbye, stayed home to care for the pets and have some down time as he is traveling again this week. The hamster wheel is spinning quickly for the O'Haras right now...

But, it's all good. Our jobs are good. Erin is doing well in school and managing to juggle all her activities with success. What more could we ask for?

Just a month left in Erin's junior year of high school. I keep reminding myself to soak up every minute of it and enjoy the ride...

Wednesday April 26, 2017

I listened to an interview this week with Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive and author of "Lean In", who lost her husband suddenly two years ago. She and psychologist Adam Grant have written a book "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy" and her interview struck me to my core.

It reminded me of so many feelings from the early days and feelings I still have today. Guilt over feeling happy, anger that never goes away, the permanence of the loss. But good feelings, too - resilience, perspective, compassion and gratitude.

It reminded me to take stock of where we've been and where we've managed to go. Option B is a perfect title. We all have grand plans for our lives and we think we know what's ahead. Then the world turns upside down. When option A no longer exists, what do you do? How do you reset your vision?

We all face adversity and deal with grief in our lives. And when those we love are dealing with grief, often, we don't know how to help them. Sandberg and Grant share words of wisdom.

Take a listen:

Sunday April 23, 2017

Ahhh, the sunshine and some down time does wonders for the soul. We have had a weekend at home, time with friends, time on the golf course and a few home cooked meals. Good to slow things down every once in a while.

Erin, however, does not let any moss grow under her feet. She is back to full time driving, still in the Lincoln, but we are hopeful that the RAV will be done this week. She is driving herself to school, to golf practice, to volunteering, to friend's houses, and to half price apps at Applebees.

Yesterday, she went to the golf course to practice, then to the Mayo HS baseball game, then to see her volleyball teammate in the prom grand march at St. Charles, came home briefly and changed, then off to the Mayo lacrosse game and over to friends houses after that. In true teenage fashion, she arrives home just in time for her curfew. As it should be, I suppose.

We are in the push to the end of the school year now. Overlapping golf and volleyball seasons continue. This week will have two golf meets followed by three days of volleyball next weekend. I need to stay young and in shape to keep up with Erin. (Let's be honest, I am neither!)

This warm spring weather is one of my favorite times of year. The promise that it brings - new blooms, better days ahead - is a metaphor for life. You weather the rough stuff and keep the faith that the tide will turn.

Saturday April 15, 2017

The emotions of this week have just about done me in. Last weekend involved a 5am trip to LaGuardia airport. Waiting stand-by for a flight, and making it home just in time for Erin to play in her volleyball tournament. Uff da.

Monday was Erin's 16th birthday and the long awaited driver's test. Erin might be the last junior at Mayo High School who didn't have her license. I was about as nervous as I've ever been, wanting so badly for her to gain this right of freedom. She passed and we celebrated over bagels before she took me and Dan home and drove herself to school. Oh, the joy!

Dan's car - the Toyota RAV - was passed down to Erin with160,000 highway miles that Dan put on it in the last 5 years. Dan's company car is arriving soon. Perfect timing.

I was especially pleased when I didn't have to pick her up from volleyball on Monday night at 9:30! Or, pick her up from school in time for her golf meet on Tuesday. I wasn't worried a bit as I was confident in her skills. She is a good driver. All was right in the world.

Wednesday afternoon was an early release from school. Erin was headed out to lunch with her friends. On the busy road outside Mayo HS, Erin was waiting to make a left turn, with traffic backed up behind the turn lane. A teenage boy in a pickup truck with "redneck" written across the front (yes, I'm judging) was either distracted, going too fast or both. The front of his truck had a hitch on it for a snow plow and that hitch slammed not into Erin's bumper but into the back gate of the RAV, crumpling the door and shattering the windshield. Erin said "I could see him coming and knew he was going to hit me. I just braced for impact". In my 30 years of driving, I've never been in an accident that violent.

The call I got made my heart sink. I arrived on the scene and we called the cops. Luckily, everyone had insurance. Erin was OK, she was alone in the car and had her seatbelt on - a little whiplash, a sore shoulder from the seatbelt and a lot of fear.

Our insurance agent is confident that the boy's insurance will cover our deductible and repairs. In a rear end crash, it almost always works that way. Our insurance rates will not be affected. Erin was not at fault.

We drove her to and from school the next day, but by Friday she was ready to get behind the wheel again. Her car is now at the body shop and we have a rental, covered by insurance. Of course, a teenage girl can't drive the rental, so Erin is now driving the mom car, my Lincoln. She might be the youngest person in America driving a Lincoln MKX!

But now, I'm a nervous wreck when Erin's out there driving. I now imagine the Mayo HS parking lot and surrounding roads as a real live version of Mario Kart. The first two days I was fine, confident, happy for her to have her independence. Now I can't relax until she is home safe and sound. She had a midnight curfew last night. I was wide awake when she came in at 11:55.

I know it's almost a rite of passage to have your first accident when you are a new driver. Usually it's a bump on the fender, not whiplash and a shattered windshield. Damn.

Dan and I were talking this morning about the highs and lows of life. Parenting is hard, and I wonder if we want so badly to have the highs after experiencing the lows. Are we searching too hard for those feel good moments?

Today is a reminder of what we have endured as parents. Today is diagnosis day, April 15.

6 years ago, we were told that Shannon had a brain tumor and that there was little we could do about it. We did what we could, but still lost her. The rest of our parenting moments are framed by that event. This life had a random element to it and some things are out of our control.

Our kid getting in a car crash but not getting hurt? That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, right? But that's not fair to Erin. The car crash this week was traumatic, and Erin shouldn't have to live under the shadow of "there are worse things in life." Erin's allowed to have her own tragedies.

But, we are thinking of Shannon on this day. Remembering how she handled her diagnosis with grace and determination. When life throws me a curveball, I can only hope to do the same.

Friday April 7, 2017

I had hoped to be writing you from our flight home today, but, the best laid plans sometimes go awry. Delta has cancelled hundreds of flights up and down the east coast and we are caught in the backlog. Our  10 am flight is cancelled and they haven't found a flight with room for us yet. So, it looks like another day in NYC. There are worse places in the world to be stuck - like the Atlanta airport. That's where Dan spent the night last night trying to get home from Jacksonville. He has arrived back in Minneapolis now, 24 hours late.

Erin thinks this is a good test of my ability to go with the flow. Ha, I'll show her! Actually, I have been good on this trip - even spontaneous by my standards :)

We arrived Tuesday (almost 90 minutes late) so didn't have time to go to our hotel prior to our first college tour. No worries, we just took our luggage in a taxi right to Wagner College on Staten Island and did our first ever college tour. After the tour, we hauled our luggage on the Staten Island Ferry, transferred to the 1 Subway line, got off at 50th street and walked - luggage and all - 4 blocks to our hotel. How's that for flexibility?!?!

Day two involved a trip out to Long Island to visit Hofstra University. Getting there involved walking to the Times Square station, taking the Subway to Penn Station, then taking the Long Island Railroad to Hempstead, NY, and jumping on the shuttle for the mile trip to the school. Then plan was to do the same on the way back, but when we arrived at Penn Station, we decided to stop for burgers and shakes at Shake Shack. While standing in a packed restaurant to eat, the guy next to us asked "Do you know what time the doors open for the concert?" Erin asked "What concert?" "John Mayer is here at Madison Square Garden tonight". MSG is located right above Penn Station.

So, Erin talked the new and improved spontaneous Jen into trying to get tickets. 15 minutes later we were through security and at the box office finding out that there were a handful of tickets remaining.

It was a great show in one of the greatest arenas in the world. Check that off my bucket list. 

Yesterday's adventure involved walking 4 blocks to the F train, riding it for 30 minutes out to Queens, getting off at 169th Street, then taking the Q-30 city bus to St. John's University. We toured on a rainy day but still got to see the campus and get a feel for the school.

On our way back to the hotel yesterday, we decided we'd grab a pizza and take it to the room to eat and watch the Masters for a little down time. Angelo's Pizza, located right next to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert was the closest pizzeria to our hotel. We sidled up to the bar and ordered a pizza to go. Just minutes later, a crew guy comes in and says "We'll be in for the photo shoot in just a minute". Next thing you know, I'm shaking Stephen Colbert's hand and photo bombing his shoot.

Last night - which we thought would be our last night - we had tickets to see Waitress on Broadway. The musical was written by Sara Bareilles and just last week, she started a turn starring in the show. Erin is a big fan and we both loved the show.

This trip has solidified Erin's wanderlust. She can see herself here, potentially at the schools we visited. We're not done looking by any means, and NYC isn't the only potential choice, but it is on the top of her list. I am coming to grips with the idea that she's going to have more of her own life soon that doesn't involve me on a day to day basis. I know it's still a year and a half away, but I'll need all that time to prepare.

I know it's as it should be. This is normal for kids to grow up, start expanding their horizons, go to college, make their own life. Normal doesn't mean easy, though.

Today we will work on getting back to MN. Erin is suppose to be playing in a volleyball tournament tomorrow at 2:30pm in the Twin Cities... The adventure continues...

Wednesday March 29, 2017

The Facebook flashback have been particularly poignant this week. If you're an FB'er, you know the ones. "On this day 6 years ago..."

I feel like the flashback should say "On this day 6 years ago, you had no idea what life would hold for you." or "In this picture you had no idea that all hell would break loose two weeks later."

That spring break 6 years ago, we took Shannon and Erin to NYC and Washington, DC for the first time. Shannon was 12, Erin was 9. I loved planning our perfect family vacation for our perfect little family. Nothing would ever be "perfect" again.

We came home from that spring break, Erin turned 10, and Shannon was diagnosed. I don't need pictures to remind me of those days. It's burned into my memory in a way I'll never forget.

I shared Shannon's story with some new people this week as the Mayo Girls Golf season has kicked off. At the parent meeting, we always share information about our golf fundraiser with the new families. I wasn't very smooth when I talked about Shannon. Tears were close. Sometimes it just hits me like that.

I guess there's some comfort in that. Knowing that the wound never completely heals. Shannon lives on deep in the pain of these memories. Day-to-day life goes by without really "feeling" sometimes. Maybe that's self preservation. Maybe it's lack of attention to detail. Either way, the pictures this week are conjuring up the memories and I am feeling them deeply.

Next week is spring break again. Erin and I are headed to NYC. We've never done a mother/daughter trip, so we're both really looking forward to it. It's a college visit/16th birthday adventure.

6 years ago, I never imagined that I'd be taking that 9 year old to look at schools. 6 years ago, I didn't know that 9 year old would be my one and only.

Erin has persevered better than we could have hoped or imagined. She has goals and dreams and she's working towards them. I'm glad she didn't give up when her world was turned upside down at age 10. Erin will live with the loss of Shannon longer than any of us. She deserves the world. I hope we can help deliver it.

Wednesday March 22, 2017

There have been some sure signs of spring this week, and not just on the calendar where is says "First Day of Spring"!

The eagle has been flying down out street again this week, heading to the reservoir to hunt for dinner. It makes us wonder if there are babies in the nest this year. Sunny barks at the eagle as it flies overhead. It makes us smile every time.

I also know spring is here because the Mayo Girls Golf season began yesterday. We had our first team meeting and it's always fun to see the girls again and meet the new ones. We have a roster of 25 this year, including 9 new faces, so that's fun. Erin is a captain again this year and I will have the opportunity to be a volunteer coach.

Each year when we start the season we have a meeting the first day. It's a chance to lay out the team rules and talk about the upcoming season. That also includes talking about MGG Swings for Shannon, our annual fundraiser. Each year I tell a new group of girls about Shannon and her short time on this earth. Yesterday, I brought copies of the book for anyone who wants to read about our journey with Shannon. When I look at the pictures of Shannon the day she played in a JV golf meet, she looks so little. I guess she was.

To accommodate the golf schedule, I will start my workdays a little earlier so I can finish and be done in time for practice. I'm so grateful to have this opportunity and to have a job that allows flexibility. The time with Erin here at home seems to be flying by now. I can't believe it, really. Next week, 3rd quarter of her junior year will come to a close and then we're off on some college visits. How did this happen to my little girl?

I know I've contemplated this here before, but I think I need to keep saying it over and over in preparation for the changes ahead. So, thank you all for being my sounding board!

I feel like Erin's independence carries extra weight because of Shannon. I know that's not fair to Erin, but it's a reality. We are only going to have a new driver in the house one time. We are only going to go through the college choice process one time. Etc... These are big milestones and I have to enjoy the process and not let my mind jump ahead, which is not always my strong suit.

So, we carry on working our way to the end of March. Life is good on Willow Lane. I continue to remind myself to enjoy the moments, stay in the present and appreciate the hear and now. I hope you all can do the same.

Thursday March 16, 2017

This week is flying by as I'm catching up from being gone for a few days last week. My trip to Palm Springs with my girlfriends was lovely, just as I had imagined. Strong coffee in the morning, tennis and sunshine and good conversation day and night. Three days of fun and friendship. I did manage to see my boy Roger Federer practicing. He looks just as good in person.

I came home just in time to see the latest 6 inches of snow fall, and to go shopping for a prom dress. This was my first time - ever - shopping for prom. I never went, and, of course, Shannon didn't get the chance. Sunday, during the snowstorm, Erin and I spent 5 hours looking for just the right dress. Dan thought we were crazy. Some things dads just don't understand. Mission accomplished and Erin looks beautiful in the one she chose.

Today, March Madness begins - the NCAA basketball tournament kicks off and will dominate the sports landscape the next three weeks. Dan, Erin and I have filled out our brackets. Always fun to try to guess better than the next guy. And, the MN Gophers are in the tournament this year, so we have a rooting interest.

It's also fun to look at the names of all the colleges and universities participating as it's a reminder of the endless possibilities out there for the kids who are beginning this journey. Erin's senior friends are down to crunch time and making their college choices and Erin and her junior friends are just beginning the college process.

Sports, as you know, is a common topic of conversation in our household. Say what you want about organized sports and crazy parents, but I still think the pros outweigh the cons. Erin's volleyball team this year has 11 girls from 8 different schools who are learning to play together, win and lose together, and support each other no matter what. Those lessons will serve these girls well in the coming years as they learn to live with roommates and advocate for themselves when mom and dad aren't at their side.

Erin's sports life will get even busier starting next week as the high school golf season begins. The first month of the season in Minnesota involves hitting golf balls indoors, but Erin and I are both excited to get the season started. I am lucky enough to get to be a volunteer coach again this year.

We graduated 11 seniors, so our team will have some new faces this year. The first golf meet is scheduled for April 11. Hopefully, the snow will be gone by then!

Dan's travels took him to Wisconsin this week and it just so happens that the Gophers play in Milwaukee this afternoon, so Dan is able to take some customers to the game.

This weekend will take us to the cities for a volleyball tournament. This will be a chance for Grandma and Papa Harkins to see Erin play as the tournament is right in their backyard.

All is well in our world.

Wednesday March 8, 2017

Today is International Women's Day... and I am celebrating by getting the heck out of here with my girlfriends! The sustained 40 MPH winds and bitter temps are making it all the more exciting to be heading to California...

I believe this is our fifth annual getaway and our third time heading to Palm Springs, coinciding with the pro tennis tournament at Indian Wells. Yes, tomorrow I will be stalking the courts looking for Roger Federer...

More importantly, I will be with four other women this weekend who support me and lift me up in this crazy life we live. My hope is that I do the same for them.

Dan and Erin will survive at home without me. Volleyball tonight and then they have a date night planned to go to the girls basketball game tomorrow night.

Just so you don't feel sorry for DanO, please know he has a couple of golf trips planned in April and May...

Erin's life will be busy in the next three months as the club volleyball season continues and the high school golf season begins. The only good news about this crazy wind is that it's drying up the golf course as we speak...

Erin is a captain of the golf team this year and we've got several new kids coming out. I am looking forward to another year of volunteer coaching with the girls.

But, first things first - a trip to the desert with Kay, Kula, Sue and Jeannie. There will be coffee, wine and beer by the pool, yummy salads prepared by those who cook (not me!), days of playing tennis and watching tennis, and much conversation and laughter in between...

So, Happy International Women's Day... tell the women in your life that you support them... even better, show them...

Sunday February 26, 2017

It's been a good weekend to be home! More than a foot of snow fell between Thursday night and Friday, prompting a snow day... it was 60 degrees on Tuesday and the grass was turning green. Now, golf season just got a little bit further away...

Erin and her besties use snow days for sleepovers... We love her friends and they love us back. We talk school, boys, college, life, you name it... And, Erin does the same with their parents. So healthy and supportive. What more could you ask for? I'll take all the eyes and ears and hearts and minds lifting these kids up.

We're fortunate that Erin's besties have parents who have become our besties, too. We broke our cabin fever by heading out for dinner and drinks last night. It's good to have friends...

February ends this week and it will be a busy one. The junior class takes the ACT test in school this week. Pressure for these kids as they prepare for the next step. So exciting and nerve wracking to think about going away to college. And not just for me, but for Erin too :)

This process of narrowing things down - How big a school? How big a city? What kind of major? And on and on... Erin's senior friends are down to crunch time and we are following along closely, learning from those who go before us...

Next weekend will again be filled with volleyball - this time we are off to the Wisconsin Dells for a three day tournament. Dan will be along this time and I'm excited for him to get to see Erin play.

So, we keep chugging along. Life is good and we've got fun stuff ahead in March and April: travels, volleyball, girlfriend getaway, golf trip for Dan, spring break, golf season...

Time goes quickly and I want to be prepared for what's ahead but also remember to enjoy the here and now. That's my constant struggle... not unique to me, I know...

So, I'm off to enjoy this day with the people I love...I  hope you can do the same...

Saturday February 18, 2017

I am writing this morning from Omaha, Nebraska in the shadows of the Centurylink Center where later today, Erin's volleyball team will start play. This is a three day tournament called Pres Fest with hundreds of teams from a dozen states. I'm looking forward to it!

Dan is home babysitting the pets. After several weeks in a row of traveling and staying in hotels, the 5 hour trip to Omaha wasn't on the top of his wish list. It's OK, he knows I was ready to get out of Roch and I am enjoying having a hotel room to myself. I don't remember the last time that happened... I think my cousin's wedding a couple of years ago...

But, while I like my alone time, I've been thinking a lot this week about relationships and the people in my life...

Tuesday, was Valentine's Day, and while Dan had to hit the road that morning, he left me a sweet Valentine's card. It's good to be loved. I played tennis with my group of close friends and oh, did we laugh. Our "Tuesday Tennis" group is always just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday was a day spent at work, collaborating a bunch of moving parts and producing quality work. It's a really healthy, fun working environment. Almost a year into being a full time employee, I am really getting to know the people and... bonus... I really like them.

Thursday night my women's volleyball team finished up our season. Over a beer afterward, we talked about kids, husbands, work, school, college... six 40-something women have a lot to say!

As I was driving 5 hours in my car by myself yesterday (Erin was on the bus with her team) I was thinking about how big my world is now. So much bigger than before Shannon got sick. Is it because we shared our story about Shannon and continue to be "out there" in her memory? Is it because I'm more open? Does it just naturally come with age?

It's probably a combination of all of the above...

I do know that Shannon led us down a path where we realized more fully that the human connections we make are everything. At my volleyball game this week, a woman on the other team stopped me after the game and asked "Are you Shannon's mom?" She worked in radiation oncology and was a part of Shannon's treatment team sometimes. She told me "Shannon was a great kid." Dead or alive, that's what a mama wants to hear.

The Tuesday tennis group are the women who showed up when I needed it most after Shannon's passing. The helped me back to some sense of normal and they continue to let me talk about both of my girls.

Even my volleyball team has a Shannon element to it. Their kids were friends and teammates of Shannon. They all knew her, or knew of her through their children.

I've been thinking a lot about how Shannon continues to shape me, and I've been thinking about how Shannon will affect Erin as she goes forward in life. Erin will make hundreds of new connections in the coming years as she finishes high school and goes off to college. How will she carry Shannon with her and share her those who never knew her? That is not for me to decide - it's up to Erin - but I still find myself thinking about it.

Lots of deep thoughts for a Saturday morning in Omaha... grateful for the time and space to think them.

Saturday February 11, 2017

It seems the weekends are when I can find time to gather my thoughts and maybe write a little... Being a full time employee has certainly cut into my down time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing!

I continue to love my job and the people I work with. My department has a real team feeling to it, and we operate like a newsroom, sharing story ideas, brainstorming, helping each other produce stories...
It's the journalism job I trained for 25 years ago... life is funny that way...

The weekends are also our chance to go out and have some fun. Dan will be off in Green Bay next Tuesday, so we celebrated an early Valentine's Day last night. Happy hour, tried out a new restaurant, and one more stop for an after dinner drink. Still home by 10pm! Perfect :) Accepting your age is a beautiful thing...

Erin was also out socializing... she managed to stay up a little later than me and Dan! Erin has such a great core group of friends. She is loved and she loves them back.  These are kids who feel comfortable walking into each other's houses, raiding the pantry, and talking with each other's parents like their own... We are grateful for the people who love our kid...

I've been thinking a lot about Erin lately... our time with her here is getting shorter each day. We made the appointment for her drivers exam this week. Pretty soon she won't need the mom taxi anymore. While I am ready for her to drive, I will miss our commutes where we talk and sing together...

Erin is beginning to think about the next She wants to explore the big cities on the east coast, so she and I are headed to NYC to look at colleges over spring break... exciting and scary...

Dan and I would give Erin the world if we could... if she has a goal, we want to help her make that happen. But, letting her leave the nest is going to be hard... mostly on me and Dan.

So those are the things that occupy my thoughts these days. I have to remind myself to enjoy the here and now. We've still got time together, so stay in the present and enjoy...

We should have learned that lesson after Shannon. To enjoy this moment, because other moments aren't a given. Shannon lived that way, and I need to remind myself - over and over - to do the same. I still have room to grow in that regard, but I'm trying.

"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have" - Eckhart Tolle

2017 SOF Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to Samantha Jones (John Marshall), Paige Anglin (Mayo) Maddie Leqve (Century) and John Schmitz (Century) for being chosen as 2017 Shannon O'Hara Scholars.

Thanks to those who support the foundation and make these scholarship gifts possible. You all help us to carry on Shannon's spirit.

Friday February 3, 2017

We are in final preparations for tomorrow's big event - Shannon O'Hara Scholarship Night!

Here are the details:

JM vs. Century Boys hockey

Game time: 7:15pm
Location: Graham Arena 4

We will present our scholarships at the end of the first period and merchandise will be available for purchase throughout the game.

We're excited about this year's winners, but I think I say that every year! We've been fortunate to have great kids apply for the scholarship and, believe it or not, this is our fifth year of giving out scholarships.

We hope you can join us tomorrow night at the rink. It's better when we all celebrate together.

Here's a little trip down memory lane...





Monday January 30, 2017

Our weekend was filled with activity, Dan and I here in Rochester running the Shannon Cup event while Erin was off at the Minneapolis Convention Center playing in a three day volleyball event. Divide and conquer...

Erin had her first chance to get to know her teammates a little better. Hanging out in between games, at the hotel, etc. This is a new team for Erin and there are 11 girls from 7 different high schools, so new friends to be made!

Dan and I spent Friday night and Saturday at Graham Arena. I have to admit, I do still love being around the rink. Even 5 years later...

This weekend's Shannon Cup was for the U12 and U10 age groups. 300 skaters and their families from MN, WI and even IL... many of these teams come back year after year, but there are always some new teams, too, who don't know our story. Having a chance to share with them who Shannon was and why this tournament is named for her is a special thing for me and Dan.

The Rochester kids help us spread the story, too. They run around the arena in various Shannon gear and they continue to tape their sticks and helmets in lime green to remember her.

We sent a copy of the book, Determined to Matter, home with each family this weekend, too. Seeing these young girls wanting to learn more about Shannon and wanting to be inspired, well, what more could we ask for... Dan and I got to sign a few books for the girls. They think that's cool, and we do, too.

We had a young girl from a St. Paul suburb who was hanging around our table. When her mom joined her, they told us that after playing in this tournament last year and after reading the book, this girl did a report on Shannon and the Shannon Cup for school. So, a middle school class 90 miles away from here learned about Shannon and perseverance and kindness and gratitude...

This weekend, we sold $5,000 worth of t-shirts and sweatshirts and trucker hats to help us fund our scholarships. The kindness and generosity of others is such a pleasant reminder of the good in this world... Congrats also to the Rochester 10A team on being Shannon Cup champions!

So, we take a deep breath this morning and then prepare for one more Shannon event this weekend. Saturday, Feb. 4 will be Shannon O'Hara Scholarship Night during the Century-JM Boys hockey game. We are excited to award our 5th year of recipients. Another good group of kids who will have a little help from Shannon as they pursue their dreams...