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