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...

Wednesday January 25, 2017

What should be a day of Erin taking finals has turned into a snow day. Ah, you gotta love Minnesota... or not... My hubby is in Nashville this week at company meetings, so snow removal is my problem today... someday maybe I won't live in these conditions!

I'm grateful today that I can telework... send some emails, shovel some snow, write a script, shovel some snow, etc...

We've been busy with Shannon O'Hara Foundation work, as our Board of Directors met this weekend and chose the 2017 scholarship winners. We're excited to present them on February 4th at the JM vs. Century boys hockey game.

Calling our scholarship winners and telling them they are receiving the award is the most rewarding thing we do. I hope we can do it for a long time...

But before we get to that, we have the Shannon Cup this weekend: 22 teams, with over 300 girls ages 10-12 will be at Graham Arena. It's fun for Dan and I to stay connected with the hockey community and to share our story with another generation of Rochester girls. It is energizing to be around those kids.

We're also excited to roll out some new merchandise... so come see us if you can!

New SOF Merchandise on sale - Saturday 1/28 - 8am-6pm - Graham Arena


Tuesday January 17, 2017

Snow day! Actually, ice day is more like it... Rain, sleet and ice overnight has led to schools being closed today in the Rochester area. Erin's first snow day of her junior year... always an unexpected treat.

Actually, Erin doesn't even know that it's a snow day yet, because she is still asleep! She will be glad to have an extra day to catch up on homework/projects/finals preparation. Two weeks left in the first semester, so it's crunch time.

I will work from home today and enjoy the extra time with Erin. I love that I have that kind of flexibility...

Dan had to hit the road as the customer in Green Bay doesn't care that we had an ice storm. So, off he went at dawn... someday he'll be able to retire from the road.

We are fast approaching our Shannon events at the end of the month. The scholarship applications have all been received and our board is reviewing them right now. It's going to be a very difficult year to pick a winner. Thank goodness we have the input of our board of directors to help us make the difficult choices. We will award the scholarships at Graham Arena on Saturday, Feb. 4.

First up, though, is the Shannon Cup hockey tournament Jan. 27-29. This is the younger age groups - 10&under and 12&under. 20 teams with 300 skaters will be in town to compete. I've been busy getting t-shirt orders from the teams, organizing volunteers, etc. It's work, but it's worth it.

I often joke that my job with the SOF is no pay, but great benefits... Sharing Shannon's story with these young athletes is always a rewarding experience.

Time to dig in and get through January. Here we go...

Wednesday January 11, 2017

We have survived another one of those dates on the calendar that looms so large in our memories...  the anniversaries of Shannon's death and funeral have passed.

We survived because Dan, Erin and I are a team. We survived because there are amazing people in our lives who love us on our good days and our bad. We survived because Shannon wanted us to...

Erin had a few Shannon coincidences last week. Her new volleyball team handed out their jerseys. They choose numbers by going down the roster alphabetically... you guessed it. Erin is 9th in alphabetical order and will wear #9 this season...

Erin has also been working on a project for her Econ class, highlighting a business, their finances and activities. She did the Shannon O'Hara Foundation since she sits on our board... she presented her project on January 6th. Uff da...

So now we go on with the rest of our lives again...

I managed a weekend overnight to my friend's cabin with a group of tennis friends. I probably shouldn't just refer to them as tennis friends... they are so much more than that... we drank coffee, wine and Moscow Mules as we talked about husbands, children and grandchildren... we talked about the things we love about them and the things that drive us crazy... it's good to vent once in a while!

The older I get, the more I value these people in my life who see me for who I am, warts and all... I hope these women are a part of my life forever...

Dan had to head back out on the road this week after 3 weeks at home over the holidays. I'm not saying Erin and I are happy about that... I'm just saying... well... it's good to be back in the routine :)

Today at my division meeting at work, I am "In the Spotlight". That means my supervisor shares a little bit about me with my colleagues so they can get to know me. I had to choose family photos and such to share... damn... I included Shannon because, well, she is still a part of my family... I have(had) two daughters and I can't let a room of co-workers think otherwise...

I think about this for Erin as she goes forward in life. Her world is getting bigger every day and she meets new people more often than Dan and me. College looms not far down the road. How will she choose to share her story? Time will tell...

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." - Søren Kierkergaard

Five years ... Jan. 6, 2017

Today marks 5 years since Shannon passed away. Dan, Erin and I have felt this anniversary so deeply this week. I think 5 seems like a big number. We count anniversaries of all things in multiples of 5, so this one has some extra weight that we can't escape...

It's also the first time that the days of the week match up... Jan. 6 is a Friday this year, just like it was in 2012...

We have been reminiscing and re-reading parts of Determined to Matter to jog our memories about Shannon's final days. I am so grateful we have this written log so we don't forget any of it...

Remembering her smile and sassy personality, remembering her spirit and her fight, remembering the relief, anger and sadness we felt when her battle ended...

And remembering Erin's role in this, too... 5 years ago Dan drove Erin to school for another day of 6th grade... we called the school hours later and asked that someone bring Erin home. We were all together on that sunny January day as Shannon drifted away. Erin, 10 years old, sat on the bed with her sister and watched her take her last breaths. Sunny the Wonderdog was at her feet.

That experience has obviously shaped us all, but none more than Erin. There's a lot more growing up to do between ages 10 and 15 than there is between 42 and 47 or 48 and 53... she's navigating it better than we could have imagined...

But for today, we don't expect much from ourselves. We'll do some work and some school, but we'll also be together and recognize that we've survived - mostly in tact - to the 5 year mark. 

Thank you to all who have been and continue to be a part of our journey. Grief and loss is a journey that never ends...

Happy New Year

2017 is here. I love the landmarks of time like this. The closure of one year and the possibilities of the year ahead. Each passing year makes us recollect where we have been and where we hope to go next...

2016 saw a big change for me in that I became a full time employee of the Mayo Clinic. My role on the News and News Delivery team is a perfect fit. I get to write, research and organize - three of my best skills. I am so grateful to find a job I love at the age of 47. I hope it continues for years to come.

Dan had another successful year working for the same company, EFS, now owned by WEX. This coming summer will mark 10 years with this organization. He's not near the end and his days on the road continue, but retirement can at least be a part of the discussion now :)

Erin, of course, accomplished the most in this past year. She's a junior in high school and busy every day and night is seems. School, friends, volleyball, golf, student govt... she was elected to the National Honor Society this year as well.

I anticipate Erin will also be busy in the year ahead. 2017 will bring her 16th birthday and the long awaited driver's license. 2017 also will bring the beginning of the college journey - explorations, applications and acceptances (hopefully!). It is so exciting and a little bit scary...

Dan and I hope 2017 brings good health and time to enjoy life. We are so fortunate to have family and friends who make life a little bit easier.

We count anniversaries in multiples of 5, and a big one is looming for us on January 6. It's still unimaginable the Shannon has been gone for 5 years. I wasn't sure how we'd live without her, but here we are, 5 years down the road.

2017 is a year of potential for the Shannon O'Hara Foundation. Our first scholarship recipients will graduate from college this spring. We will hit the $20,000 mark in scholarships we've awarded. We have a goal of reaching $150,000 total raised by the foundation in the 5 years since Shannon passed...

Amazing, humbling, rewarding...

Happy New Year to all. May 2017 bring love, friendship, health... and time to enjoy them!