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Scattered Pictures of the Smiles We Left Behind by Sharon O’Donnell

As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been going through the old 8mm films and VHS tapes that my dad has taken of family and friends over the years. We are so blessed that he was ahead of the game when he bought that 8mm camera with the big bright lights on it so many years ago (I guess in the 1950s). With that camera, he captured the smiles, faces, and yes, even the dance moves of relatives and friends who’ve since passed away. And of those who have simply gotten older and might have forgotten those long-ago images. It is indeed bittersweet to look at these films of days gone by. They are definitely priceless. My father didn’t know at the time he was taking those pictures what a gift he was giving his children and grandchildren that would continue to give decades later. Or maybe he did.

These faces and memories show my children where they came from, who they came from. These films and videos literally bring to life the great aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents that my kids have only heard about. There are some with voices and those older ones on film without the voices. … Continue reading..

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More Than a Diploma by Sharon O’Donnell


This is my middle boy, David, after his graduation with a Masters of Accounting from NC State University this week. This is also my boy who had speech therapy starting at 3, reading comprehension issues in elementary school, an auditory learning disability, & severe anxiety beginning his junior year of high school. He was a good student throughout middle and high school and a very good baseball and basketball player, but he was able to do these things because of his determination and work/study ethic. I got a tutor to work with him, and I worked a lot with him one-on-one also. Athletics came easy to him, but academics didn’t. He was intelligent, but the issues he faced made it difficult. When school athletics ended after high school, he turned all  his focus on academics and — Wow!  He excelled in the classroom like never before, making Dean’s List every semester. His perseverance and drive were unbelievable; there were still some hard times here and there, but he came through them. He learned how to advocate for himself, and he learned how to better deal with his anxiety.

He still played intramural sports in college, and his basketball team … Continue reading..

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A Rising Star on The Voice by Sharon O’Donnell

Last year, I went two times to hear a 17-year-old local singer/musician from Sanford, NC sing and play guitar/piano. The first time I heard him, I couldn’t believe how talented he was. Went back the second time to discuss maybe someday writing some song lyrics with him, as I’d done with another extremely talented local teen, Brooke Hatala.

Well, the nation is about to find out about this talented young man — Britton Buchanan. He will be blind auditioning on The Voice this Monday night. But, thanks to the promotion of him by the show, we already know he was selected in the audition and will get to choose his coach!  The show put this link below on Facebook yesterday. He is a terrific, very talented young man, and his parents are over the moon about this. Please tune in and vote for him! reading..

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Toys R Us Brings Back the Memories by Sharon O’Donnell

My three sons are ages 26, 23, and 17. I’ve spent many Christmases buying Power Ranger toys, video games, and Red Sox merchandise, particularly if the Sox won a championship as they did in ’04, ’07, and ’13. I spent much time at the local Toys ‘R’ Us, roaming the aisles looking for just the right gifts.  Then it was just about clothes — and sports — always sports. Now that they are grown up, they usually just text or email links to things they want, and I go the website and buy the items — easier but with none of the surprise that real ‘shopping’ brings to the faces of little boys.

Now they are men. My youngest is 17, a sweet but sarcastic teen, who just became an Eagle Scout (his brothers and father are also Eagle Scouts — yep, we have had at least one son in Scouting since 1996. Wow. He is also a bit tired of GPA’s and the SAT/ACT — as I am; junior year in high school is tough. But I’m glad to know my husband and I will have him here at home with us for another year and a half.

My … Continue reading..

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Mental Health Issues are in Crisis Situation for Teens/Young Adults by Sharon O’Donnell

Anyone who has read my blog, sporadic as it has become, over the many years I’ve been writing for motherhoodlater know that my middle son, now 23, has struggled since high school with severe anxiety. It’s gotten much better since 2010 and he’s thriving in grad school now, but there are still some bumps along the road. In working with my son, I became alarmed at how many teens and young adults struggle with severe anxiety and depression and the continued rise in such cases; such cases also contribute to the suicide rate in this age group.

I came across something that was written by a parent whose 14-year-old son recently completed suicide. It’s heartbreaking but eye-opening and soul-touching. I want to share it with you below.

I’ve become active in mental health support in my community and my church in the past several years. The biggest takeaways so far from support groups are 1. we have to take away the stigma of mental health illnesses  2. parents still need to be involved in their child’s mental health care even thought the law says that child is over 18 (mental health conditions sometimes make it imperative that the parent is … Continue reading..

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College Tours Part 3 by Sharon O’Donnell

In the past month, I’ve gone on 2 college tours with my youngest son — son #3 — with several more coming up in the next month. Son #3 is six and nine years younger than his two other brothers who are already college graduates with one working as a CPA in DC and one in grad school to his Masters of Accounting. Actually, he has a late summer birthday, so I started him a year later than most, meaning he’s seven and ten years behind his brothers in school.  And yes, I’ve really been having some deja vu feelings going through the college tour process for the first time.

A few things I’ve learned from the college application process with my older sons that benefit son #3:

1. Take an SAT/ACT prep course in the August  before your junior year. This way your child can study/prep for it without also having to study for tests, etc. for school classes, and this means much less stress. Also, when you visit college campuses, you will already have a benchmark test score to know which colleges are realistic and which are reach/dream schools.

2. There is a college out there for everyone Continue reading..

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Summer Highlights by Sharon O’Donnell

So it’s October, and I haven’t even posted anything from this summer. Wow, does time truly fly.  So here are some highlights:





So has been very eventful, and I’ve also been busy doing some songwriting — lyrics only — for a 16-year-old local artist named Brooke Hatala. Check out her website at  — and scroll down to listen to two of the songs I wrote with her and her producer, Just Hold Me and Stars.  Let me know what you think. We’re working on others now, and it has kept me busy. Hoping to go to Nashville with her in December. She opened for Willie Nelson in Raleigh area in July!  And she is a wonderful, sweet young woman who I think will go far in life.

Been also taking (along with my two sisters and brother) my 93-year-old parents to doctors’ appointments — they are doing well and going pretty strong although my father has a bad bruise on his hip from a fall last week. So glad that my siblings are all local so that we can all help with caring for them.

Youngest son got his license in August and started his … Continue reading..

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Touching Down by Sharon O’Donnell

Yes, I know that parenthood is all about raising your children so that they are independent and can fly off on their own, ready to face the world and be successful. And of course, I want that for my kids.  Any parent would. I’ve been lucky that my two oldest sons have succeeded while also staying close to home; they went to college 15 minutes away, and my oldest son’s first job was here in the same town that they grew up in, and the middle one has accepted a job here also to begin next year after he finishes his Master’s program. Although my nest was emptying, with only my 16-year-old still left a home, they weren’t flying very far away. We could still meet for lunch or dinner, and holidays were always easy to plan due to the lack of travel.

Recently, though, my oldest son, Bill, has decided to move six hours away to Washington, D.C.  in July. Not that far away from Raleigh, but still — it is AWAY.  He is the first one to leave this town we have all thought of as ‘home’.  He went to a Master’s program at the University of Virginia … Continue reading..

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No More Baseball Games by Sharon O’Donnell

Since 2006, one of three boys has played middle or high school basketball and/or baseball — not to mention recreation teams in city leagues. Throughout those years, my husband and I definitely saw the good, the bad, and yes, sometimes unfortunately, the ugly. The sports took a huge time commitment from our sons and also from us. Alas, those years are now officially over. I’m both disappointed and relieved.

My youngest played on the high school JV baseball team last year, even though he sat on the bench a lot. It was a stressful season followed by a summer baseball season that was also stressful, so this year I actually suggested to my son that he not try out this year and instead enjoy more free time and more time to study.  However, my son decided he wanted to try out anyway — but he didn’t make the team. I still feel that my son could have contributed to the team as well as some of the others that were chosen, and I hate that feeling a parent has when your child is being treated unfairly. But I have to admit that a big part of me was relieved that … Continue reading..

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One Foot in Front of the Other by Sharon O’Donnell

It’s been a long time since I have blogged, but I thank Robin for keeping me around so that I can still express things here.

Growing up in Raleigh, NC  in the 1960s and ‘70s, I have many memories of hot summer days at the outdoor Pullen Park pool, feeding peanuts to the pigeons at Capitol Square, checking out books downtown at the Olivia Raney library, and going to Kurt Russell Disney movies at the Cardinal Theater in North Hills. But no memory equates with that of going to the Christmas parade in downtown Raleigh at nighttime where the lights and the pageantry were magical to me.  I always went with my best friend, Tina, and both of us always loved the reverberation of the bass drums of the marching bands signaled the impending arrival of the band. It was the epitome of excitement for two seven-year-old girls.

Back then, presents and Santa Claus were of course, a big part of Christmas, but that wasn’t what I remember most.  What I remember most vividly about being a child at Christmas was the way I felt.  It was the atmosphere around me complete with candles, Christmas trees, and good things on … Continue reading..

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