Haley Scott DeMaria

ROCKNE MEMORIAL AWARD

On September 7, I had the great honor of receiving the Rockne Memorial Society’s Award for Courage. The Rockne Memorial Society is a new organization dedicated to honoring and remembering the great life and contributions of Notre Dame’s legendary coach (and player), Knute Rockne. To be recognized in his name was, of course, an honor. To share the stage with the other winners, was a thrill. Most notably, the Rockne Champion Award winner: Coach Muffet McGraw.

When I landed in Chicago en route to the ceremony, I received a text from a friend congratulating me on the award. She then commented, “I feel bad none of your family is there…” Jamie was in London, my parents were in Arizona, and my (teenage) boys thought going to their high school football game with friends sounded like more fun than being polite at an event while their mom got an award (as James added, “Again.”) But I did have family there.

Members of the Rockne Memorial Society generously donated a table for each award recipient, and I was allowed to invite guests to attend with me. I was also invited to say a few words. Perfect. I can do both.

My short remarks were my story told briefly through the friends who joined me at our table, and one who could not. Tim Welsh, my coach, was off doing what he does best: coaching other coaches. But I started with the words he shared with us many years ago: The purpose of Notre Dame Swimming is to pursue athletic-excellence, with self-discipline, and love for one another. Thank you, Tim, for living each day with love, and for teaching us to do the same.

I came to Notre Dame in 1991 to be part of their athletic excellence. Our athletic director at the time, Dick Rosenthal, was a huge champion of women’s sports and he was a remarkable advocate for Title IX at Notre Dame. He always took care of us as students and as athletes. Thank you, Dick.

The night of the accident, State Trooper Kevin Kubsch was one of the first responders at the site of our accident. He protected us from the start, and we are still friends today. Thank you, Kevin.

When I arrived at Memorial Hospital, one of the first people I recognized was our young (at the time, but still looks young 26 years later!) associate athletic director, Missy Conboy. She was a familiar face among the chaos, and she assured me that my parents had been called and were on their way. She also made sure my best friend from Arizona – a St. Mary’s student – was called and on her way to the hospital as well. Missy’s presence and assuring words were a huge comfort to an 18-year-old going into emergency back surgery. And she has been a friend and mentor ever since. Thank you, Missy.

Over the past 12 years, I have been involved with the University of Notre Dame’s Monogram Club board of directors (the Monogram Club is comprised of varsity letterwinners). Also, over the past 12 years, I have experienced great change (I wrote my book), great thrills (speaking at ND’s commencement in 2012) and great challenges as well. In short, I have grown professionally, personally and spiritually. And there is no doubt my involvement with the Monogram Club, and my friendships at the University, have guided and supported me. And often times, when I need to talk through something, Dick Nussbaum receives a phone call. Thank you, Dick.

The Rockne Memorial Society presented me with an award for Courage. After one of my heroes, John McCain, died, I heard this definition of courage: Courage is not the absence of fear in one’s life, it is overcoming your fears to carry on. Each of my guests, my ND family, have given me the courage to overcome my fears and carry on. Go Irish!

From L to R: Bill and Missy Conboy, Charlotte and Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat and Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)

THE 2018 ROCKNE MEMORIAL SOCIETY AWARDS From L to R: Bill Mountford & Missy Conboy, Charlotte & Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat & Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)

 

 

 

 

JOHN MCCAIN

I am pretty sure I have never (knowingly) posted anything political on this site. And I am pretty sure, I never will again. But this weekend our country became slightly-less-American after the passing of John McCain. We lost a great one.

We knew it was coming. The harsh reality of being familiar with glioblastoma, was knowing the prognosis once his diagnosis was announced. I also read, as everyone did, the family’s statement that he had decided to stop treatment.

But still, on Saturday night, when my older son texted me, “John McCain died,” my heart sank. My son knew this was important to me; I have spent the past two days explaining to him why.

For those of us from Arizona, especially those around my age, we grew up with John McCain. He was elected to the House of Representatives when I was nine and has served our state and our country ever since. I remember when he was elected to the senate, a seat vacated by another great Arizona politician, Barry Goldwater. I remember living through the Keating 5, and then teaching U.S. History in Arizona and talking to my students about this remarkable patriot who dedicated his life to the service of our country. His daughter was a student at the high school where I taught, though I don’t know her, and I remember thinking about John McCain through the eyes of his daughter. My heart breaks for his children; we lost a hero, they lost their dad.

I remember moving to Annapolis 14 years ago, and learning they love him here as much as we love him in Arizona. I started reading more about John McCain and his life at the Academy: how that shaped him and defined his values. As a USNA sponsor mom, I thought, “Could you imagine if your plebe was John McCain?!” He was, and will most likely remain, the only politician whose bumper sticker I put on my car.

I have never met Senator McCain, but I share his love of Arizona and his love of Annapolis; they are my two homes as well. I understand why he spent the past year in Arizona, and I understand his desire to be buried in Annapolis. I have followed his career with great pride, knowing he hails from my home state. As a history major (and teacher), I know there are few people with his courage, honor and grit.  He served his country until the day he died.

It will be an honor to welcome him home to Annapolis.

PATIENT EXPERINCE

A decade ago I met a remarkable woman who ran marketing for a hospital in the midwest. We worked on a project together and have stayed in touch over the years. I always admire women entrepreneurs who confidently move forward with an idea or project and who strive to make a difference in their field. Diane’s field is healthcare. She’s one kind of expert in healthcare, and I am another kind of expert. She thought we should combine our expertise.

About six years ago, Diane first shared with me the concept of the Patient Experience. So much of what is done at hospitals today is dictated by insurance, finances and legalities. But what about the patient? The idea to train hospital employees on elevating the patient’s experience was simple, yet revolutionary for healthcare.

I have had six surgeries in three different hospitals: a small (at the time) regional medical center in northern Indiana, a large level one trauma teaching hospital in California, and a small private hospital in La Jolla, CA. Three very different hospitals. And while the medical and clinical care I received was excellent, the compassionate care I received differed greatly.

Today Diane launched a pilot immersion program to educate medical professionals on the Patient Experience, and invited me to share with them my varied and unique experience. While I share my story often, this was – once again – a different type of presentation, with a different audience, for a different purpose. How great to think that my experiences might help affect change, that might – in turn – positively impact the care someone else receives. I may never know, but it feels good to try. It was an inspiring way to spend this rainy Tuesday morning, with many more to come.

 

DAY BEFORE MY 45TH BIRTHDAY

I turn 45 tomorrow. In our house that’s known as “halfway to 90.”

I share this with you not because I love my birthday (which I do), nor to solicit Happy Birthday wishes (but, thank you!) I share this because today is the day before my 45th birthday; and I often talk about “the day before my mom’s 45th birthday.”

My mom turned 45 on January 25, 1992. Our bus accident was the day before her 45th birthday. She was young. I was young, but she was young too.

My perspective on my mom’s role in my injury and recovery has changed since I became a mother myself. It’s true that we would change places with our children to take away their pain; every mother feels this way. But you don’t fully understand that until you are a parent yourself. What I’ve realized today, is how young my mom was to deal with this tragedy…this tragedy that, in some ways, was harder for her.

I recently found a photo of my mom and I taken a few months before I left for Notre Dame. I took note of the photo, because I am wearing the outfit I was wearing the night of the accident. (You know, the outfit I LOVED that they had to cut off…otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would still have – and wear – it!) It was a picture of my mom when she was 44; I am 44. How fun is that! She looks so much younger at 44 than I do at 44!

I recently received a text from a friend who just finished reading my book. She wrote: I remember meeting your mom (this spring). I feel like I would love to hug her!

I know how she feels! I would love to hug my mom too!

Here’s to my mom on the day before I turn 45!
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ST. LOUIS

I am not sure there are adequate words to describe my trip to St. Louis.
A few months ago when I was asked to speak at the Notre Dame Club of St. Louis Raffle/fundraiser, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.

It was a short trip, just one night, and the fundraiser was awesome. I always appreciate the opportunity to share my story; and a Notre Dame crowd is a fun audience. There were familiar faces, and new friends who shared with me their stories of hardship and hope.
The best part of the evening was connecting with a Notre Dame classmate. He lived in the dorm next to mine, so I knew him as a fellow South Quader. We’re Facebook friends, so I have followed his life, family, and career; and if I would have seen him on campus, we would have hugged, said, “hi,” and caught up briefly. But last evening, we shared a conversation that, at least in my mind (and heart) connected us forever. He shared with me the very emotional and powerful events of the bus accident as it related to his life. He was careful to say, “it wasn’t my accident,” but truly, it was. He was so sincere in his words, and I could feel his genuine emotions. He lived through this too, in his own way, in a very different – but very meaningful – way than I did. And I was so grateful to share that with him.

That was the best part of my night.
But the best part of my trip was the afternoon. The reason I was so anxious to visit St. Louis, a place I had never been.

Colleen Hipp was from St. Louis, and she is buried in St. Louis. I have visited Meghan’s grave on campus many, many times. But I have never visited Colleen.

When I knew I was going, I reached out to Mr. and Mrs. Hipp. We spoke a few times before my trip, and Mrs. Hipp connected me with one of her friends, Sandy. I had never met Sandy (although she is now programmed in my cell phone as Sandy “Hipp” – not her last name, but I don’t even know what it is!) Sandy and I shared one of the most meaningful afternoons I have had in many years.

Sandy drove me to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. (Colleen’s father was a Colonel in the Army.) She had picked up three roses for Colleen’s grave: one from me, one from her, and one from the Hipps. We drove to the section (SS) where she is buried and we walked quietly together until we found her final resting place.

I kneeled down and was overtaken with emotion. I knew I wanted to visit her, but until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I needed to be there. I sat and cried, and stared at her name, and touched her headstone, and was flooded with so many thoughts and emotions. 26 years of thoughts and emotions.

Mrs. Hipp told me it was a peaceful and beautiful location. She was right. It is. Colleen is at peace, and there is a part of me that, having now been there, is too.

It won’t take 26 more years for me to return.

Colleen's forever view.

Colleen’s forever view.

Colleen's final resting place in St. Louis, MO

Colleen’s final resting place in St. Louis, MO

Colleen Marie Hipp

Colleen Marie Hipp

 

SUMMER OF CHANGE

This is a summer of change for us. My younger son graduated from 8th grade and is leaving the school that has been our home for 13 years. It was bittersweet, as we will miss seeing our St. Anne’s friends everyday, but he is also really excited to join his brother in high school.

My older son gets his drivers license next week. As I picked him up this afternoon, I was keenly aware that our time in the car together is dwindling. I cherish those minutes (hours sometimes, as we drive to baseball tournaments), but I know he is excited for this next level of independence; and I am excited for him. Scared and nervous, but excited for him.

But there are also some changes in my personal and professional life. Personally, I am learning to live with a spinal cord injury (SCI) that is 26 years old. On the outside, and for about 95% of my days, I appear “fine.” And honestly, I am more than fine. But in reality, I live with the long-term effects of a spinal cord injury, nerve damage and a host of other health- and accident- related issues that aren’t that fun.

I don’t usually talk about this. But they affect me daily. And as I age (with another birthday coming up), I continue to learn how to navigate this very strong, very capable, but very complicated body. 95% of the time, I am fine. But during that other 5%, it knocks me out – or lands me in the ER.

When I wrote my book, I decided to be open and honest with the raw emotions that one goes through as they navigate tragedy. I knew I wouldn’t be helpful to others if I didn’t share how hard it was for me to endure the physical and emotional challenges. I have decided to continue to take that approach with the long-term affects of an SCI. I am no help to others living with a spinal cord injury, if they think it’s easy. It’s not easy; it’s draining. Sometimes it’s painful. And it is always present. I am aware, multiple times a day that I live with an SCI.

Professionally, I continue to learn and grow and evaluate how I share my story….through the written word, on social media, via my talks, and on the big screen. These are all a work-in-progress, and I am excited to share the news and changes as they unfold.

This summer of change is really a summer of growth, and of learning. My children are growing and learning to be independent. I am growing and learning how I can best contribute to this world that needs all the hope and prayers we have to share.

CINCO DE HALEY

Ten years ago tonight, my friends hosted a party they called “Cinco de Haley.” Of course that is not grammatically correct (in Spanish), but the evening was a thoughtful way to celebrate my book going to print.

Ten years ago today, I hit SEND on the manuscript that would – a month later – arrive on my doorstep in book form. What Though the Odds – Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph was born. And so was so much more.

Ten years ago, my boys were six and four. I realized today that they have only really known life with their mom as an “author.” I still don’t think of myself as an author (maybe when I write that next book, I will), but to James and Edward, my life has always been an open book. Literally. They didn’t know a time when I didn’t share my story. They didn’t know a time when I wasn’t traveling to share the inspiration. And they didn’t know that time when I was too scared and hurt to talk about it.

The past ten years have taught me so much. And while the past ten years have helped me heal, they have also shown me how broken I was. I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know that in the years that followed. Only with the ability to share my story, have I been able to see how much healing I had to do.

If you met me today, you would think I have a great life. And I do. I most certainly do. If you met me today, you would never know the pain I have suffered, both physically and emotionally. You might not know the physical challenges I still face. Daily. Hourly sometimes. Because that’s not what I choose to focus on. But they are there, always there.

Over the past ten years, I have shared some of the lessons I have learned; and over the next ten, I hope to continue to share them. In book form. In movie form. And on this blog (although I am working on a much-needed website re-design). The next decade will look much different than the last. But some of the lessons will stay the same:

It never goes away. And that’s okay.
Life may not take you down the path you planned, but it can still be a very good path.

This is not the path I planned. But it is a very good path, indeed.

To quote the last line of my book: I am filled with love.

A NEW BOOK

It’s been almost ten years since my book, What Though the Odds – Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph, was published. And what a ten years it has been! Never could I have imagined the places I would visit and the diverse audiences I would reach with my story.

One thing I have learned over the past ten years is my story is actually my journey. A story has a beginning and an end; a journey is on-going. So while my “story” is shared in my book, my “journey” is what I share with audiences when I speak.

One question I am often asked is, “Do you think you’ll write another book?” For many years, my answer was the same: No, I don’t think so. I hope I never have another story like this to tell! And I hope I don’t. I hope the tragedy of my youth is the tragedy of my life. But my journey has led me to another path and a different answer to the question of writing a second book. My answer now is, I think so. I’d like to.

Last week was a tough one for me. I have several friends who are hurting in different ways: the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, a tough diagnosis, and a troubled marriage. I grieved each of these conversations deeply and wanted to crawl into bed. And yet, I am healthy; my parents and my children are healthy.

Then I received an email that included an “ah-ha” moment for me and brought me to tears. It read, in part:  As (you) know, this journey can be very lonely and isolating at times. Your card came this week at a perfect time and I did not feel alone.

“…and I did not feel alone.”
Those words made me realize that I can help. My experience, understanding, pain and empathy can help. Sharing my story and my journey can help. Book #1 was my story. Book #2 will be my journey: how do you live with tragedy and how do you help someone through it?

But I can’t help if I crawl in bed.

THIS WEEK

What a week this has been. It’s the end of January, which is always complicated – and this week just added to the roller coaster of emotions.

First, my oldest son turned 16. For any parent, these milestone birthdays are a wonderful celebration of learning to let go. It’s bittersweet. I am excited for the adventure of having another driver in the house, but that also comes with new stresses. And it’s a reminder that he is one more year – day – closer to leaving home. Thankfully, I have two and a half more years to prepare for that. But “that” is coming.

Also on his 16th birthday, I was in a car accident. NOTE: I am fine. Truly fine. And my car will be fine (much better than the car that hit me). But it was an ironic twist of life to be in a car accident on my son’s 16th birthday…which of course is the day before “the” accident anniversary. Roller coaster of emotions? You bet.

But it was also a wonderful reminder of love in the world. I was rear-ended on the main road to my son’s school, which means many, many parents passed by and called, texted, and stopped to see if I was okay. Even moms from other schools checked in, and with offers to help out. No better time to feel the love than when you are in a car accident during the Happy Hour of carpooling.

The next day was filled with love as well. It’s a tough day. But if there was ever an example of the positive side of social media, for me -it’s January 24th. The internet was filled with love that day; messages, photos, hearts, shamrocks and hugs were viewed and sent across the miles. Our team, which is so spread out geographically, was connected in a very real way on that day. I loved it.

This week was just a regular week for many. For me it was a reminder of all the love in the world. The love of friends, the love of teammates, the love for a child, the love for a parent (it was my mom’s birthday too! Happy Birthday Mom!), the love of gratitude and blessings. Or as Tim would say, this week was filled, quite simply, with Love for One Another.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Notre Dame Swim Team bus accident (referred to as simply, “the accident”), I am hoping to share 25 Things I Have Learned In 25 Years. 

Last night I attended a Christmas program at my youngest son’s school. He’s in 8th grade, so after 13 years at St. Anne’s School of Annapolis, this was my last Christmas program as a parent. There are many wonderful traditions to share about the evening, but what I noted most were my seats. Sitting next to me were two other moms who have walked this parenting journey with me for 13 years. Walking out of the concert, I received a hug from a dad who often drives my son to school; I hugged a child I’ve known since he was one-year-old and wished him Merry Christmas; I saw teachers who taught my boys over the past decade and was reminded of the love and care they have given our family.

I looked at our school community, and I saw my family.

Even though Jamie was in NYC, James stayed home to study for mid-terms, and my parents are in Arizona; tonight, I shared the evening with my St. Anne’s family. These are moms, women, that I love. They have hugged me when I cried; they have cared for and loved my children when I couldn’t; they have driven me to the ER (see the post below); and they have made me a better mom, a better friend, and a better professional.

I often talk about “the family we are born to, and the family we create.” Tonight was a celebration of the family we have created here in Annapolis.

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