Last week I was the Commencement Speaker at Seton Hill University, a Catholic liberal arts university in Greensburg, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. It has taken me a week to process my visit, reflect on my time at Seton Hill, and be able to write about my remarkable trip.
First of all, to be asked to speak at any Commencement is a great honor. Graduation is a time to celebrate the culmination of four years of hard work, learning, friendships and often times a family’s sacrifice and love. So to be asked to address the graduates and their families on this very special day is a privilege. And it certainly was for me.
However, my visit to Seton Hill was not just for Commencement; nor was Commencement the focus of my trip. I was there to play a role - however small or great - in the healing of a campus and a team and a community that was still mourning the loss of their women’s lacrosse coach and her unborn child. I was there to spend time with the girls, many of whom are still injured physically.
I spent almost two hours with the women’s lacrosse team the day before Commencement. I didn’t know what I was going to say; I didn’t plan my remarks as I had for the following day. But I drew upon a theme from my Notre Dame Commencement address last year: I understand. As there are very few of us who do.
It was an emotional meeting for me, and an emotional day as I continued to meet with other University officials who are all dealing with their own emotions, as they strive to help the students with theirs.
I left with an uplifted heart as I was inspired by this community of faith, this new family of which I am now a part.
And I left with a theme from this year’s Commencement address that I carry with me: Hazard, Yet Forward. This is the University’s motto, as well as the motto of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s family. Hazard, Yet Forward. The hazards in life we can’t control; the forwards, we can.
Seton Hill is a wonderful and strong community of faith, and there is no better family to be around during a time of hardship than a community of faith.
God Bless and Go Forward!
I have so many wonderful mothers in my life, many of whom make me a better mom!
Of course, those of us with young children know that each day we get a hug from our children, it’s Mother’s Day. And for all mothers, if you are able to call and talk to your children, (or if you are able to call and talk to your mom) you are blessed.
And even when we can’t be with our moms, they are with us. Like, right now I am hearing in my head my mom’s voice: “You need to get to sleep. You’ve had a long weekend and you need to take care of yourself for those two boys who need you.”
My mom would be the first person to tell you that I don’t always listen to her…but I am going to tonight. I will share more of my weekend later this week, as it was a very moving and meaningful time for me. But right now, MOM’s the word!
Good night and Happiest of Days to all Mothers!
Like most of you, it is still hard for me to understand the tragedy that happened in Boston just over a week ago.
As I was driving to pick up my son at school, my husband sent me a text: two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Just as I did when I heard that a plane first hit the World Trade Center, my thought was, “What a horrible accident.” Never did thoughts of pure evil come to mind. Intentionally harming others is beyond my ability to comprehend.
For the next few days, I had a hard time watching the images on TV, unlike 9/11 when I couldn’t turn off the TV. Perhaps it is because I am a parent now; perhaps it is because I have a 9-year-old boy; perhaps it is because I just don’t know what to say to my children about it. But they know. They talk about it at school and they hear it on the radio. I just don’t know how to explain to them the horror of evil. I can explain accidents. But I can’t explain evil.
I told one of my close friends that I hadn’t said much to my boys about Boston; she hadn’t either. What is there to say? Just as I understand what the lacrosse players at Seton Hill are experiencing and living with right now, I have no idea what it was - and is - like for the runners in Boston. The only thing in common is their need of our prayers. Their need of our support and understanding. Do you know someone who ran in the Boston Marathon? Send them a note, a hand-written note, and tell them you are glad they are okay. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be sincere. If they finished or didn’t finish, were hurt or no where near the finish line, the time and care you put into your note will make a difference. You have the power, today, to make a difference.
The runners and the city of Boston will continue to inspire us with their strength. Wouldn’t it be great if the 2014 Boston Marathon consisted of two events: the ‘real’ marathon, as it has always been, and a honorary marathon for those of us who would travel to Boston, to run, walk or hobble for 26.2 miles just because we can. Now that would be quite an event to share with my children!
Yesterday it was announced that I will give the Commencement Address at Seton Hill University on May 11, 2013. If you follow my blog, or collegiate athletics, you have read about the tragic bus accident involving their women’s lacrosse team last month.
This accident hit very close to home; and as I often do, I felt compelled to reach out to the University. I offered my prayers, my support and my help in any way. There are very few of us who have experienced what the team is experiencing right now, and I know I have a gift of understanding that only comes from this shared experience. Once again, these may not be the gifts we want, but it is the gift I have and it is our role to share our gifts.
What I was reminded of in my conversations with Seton Hill, is how widely affecting these events are; this was not just the lacrosse team’s accident, this was the University’s accident as well. It has touched and changed the lives of many beyond the players, their coaches and their families.
Commencement is a time of celebration; it is a beginning. I want the day and weekend to be just that for the Seton Hill graduates. Yet, I am aware that my presence there stems from my understanding of their tragedy. This will be my challenge: to celebrate a beginning, while carrying the messages from their recent past.
Seton Hill University is a campus in mourning. For many, they may still be dealing with the shock as well. Please pray for the entire community. And for me, as I seek to do my small part in their healing.
I just returned from a vacation with my family - both my nuclear family (husband and kids) and my extended family (parents and siblings). The laundry is almost done. The pictures have been uploaded to Shutterfly. (”You still use Shutterfly?” commented my oldest nephew with perplexed disappointment as if to say, “Aunt Haley, I thought you were cool!”) And my children have caught up on their missed work, as a result of multiple spring break schedules and losing out to older cousins. So basically, we’re home.
This is all as it should be, all normal, with nothing to cause me to pause…except for that moment this morning, around 11am, when I wanted to tell my husband something. Just something. Nothing important. Just a comment on life; a comment clearly not memorable enough for me to recall what it was a few hours later. And he wasn’t here.
This too is normal for us. My husband works in New York City (we live in Maryland). He travels at least half the week and often times is only in town when I am scheduled to be out of town, so he can play full-time parent to our boys. I miss him, but I am used to it.
However, after 8 days of being with him 24/7, I wasn’t used to it. I wanted to share with him the small details of my day. It’s amazing how quickly we adjust to being together after being apart for so long; and yet how hard it is to part after being together for such a short time. I would say that’s a good thing!
Our marriage works for us. It would not work for everyone (probably wouldn’t work for most people). I have learned not to judge the way others live their lives; because not many could live the way we do. I often joke that we’ve been married for 12 years, but have only been together five.
Thankfully, whether we are away with extended family, or just together at home at the same time, it’s vacation. It’s family time. It’s needed. And it’s missed when it’s over.
It is also a great lesson for me to remember to appreciate the moment. To cherish what I have, right then when I have it. Don’t discover your blessings in hindsight. Find them in the present. We are blessed today, whether or not we are on vacation.
Last weekend I received several emails, texts, notes of….not sure what. Notes of friendship. Notes of checking in. Notes of caring. And yet the tragedy that engulfed the Seton Hill University Lacrosse team - and campus - had nothing to do with me. And yet I felt it as though it did. And clearly others knew it would as well.
The bus accident that took the lives of the Women’s Lacrosse coach, her unborn child and the bus driver is a horrible tragedy. There really are no words to explain what or why or how horrible. And yet, I feel it, and I know my teammates, coaches and our families do too. We can’t explain what we feel, but we feel it. We felt it 21 years ago, and we feel it again now.
I have thought about the team, the athletics department and the entire Seton Hill family all week. I don’t even know what my thoughts have been - just like I really don’t even know what to write now. I just feel a sadness, a heavy heart, a knowing that these young athletes are suffering in ways they don’t even yet know.
How do we help them? There are ways - by reaching out, by not forgetting, by letting them heal in their own way on their own time. And by praying for them now and in the months to come. This will not go away quickly for them. It will not end with the end of lacrosse season; it will not end when they go home for summer break; it will not end when their season begins next year. For some, it will never go away. That is part of the tragedy.
We can also help them by knowing that each time they hear of a bus accident, or an accident involving an athletic team, or maybe even an accident that involves the loss of life, that they too will feel it in a way that only those who survived can understand.
God Bless Seton Hill Lacrosse.
Last weekend I traveled to Detroit for the third time in the past 12 months. For one reason or another, my talks have taken me to the Motor City and each time I have experienced a new and inspiring group. This last trip, it was a group of Notre Dame alumnae…and ND moms…and ND wives. It was a group of Notre Dame Women - however you are affiliated with the University, if you want to participate, we’ll take you!
Notre Dame Women Connect (NDWC) was formed within the Alumni Association a few years ago to meet the (non-male) needs of our growing alumnae population. And oh how we have grown! At our Detroit event, we doubled the attendance we anticipated. Over 100 women came out to celebrate 40 years of coeducation at Notre Dame.
Interestingly enough, although I do not think it was intentional, this celebration of co-education occurred on March 9, one day after “International Women’s Day.” I love this. I have never seen myself as a feminist, but I think this is because I have never felt limited in what I was able to do. When I wanted to play sports, I could play sports; when I wanted to take advanced classes at school, those were offered to me as well. When I wanted to go to Notre Dame, it was a co-educational school.
It has been 40 years since Notre Dame first opened its doors to women undergraduates, and I am grateful. Those courageous women paved the way for me to live the life I was meant to live, to grow spiritually in ways I couldn’t imagine. They also paved the way for me to be a feminist - in the true definition of the word (look it up) - and I didn’t even know it.
We are not finished celebrating coeducation at Notre Dame. Detroit was just the beginning of a dozen regional events to commemorate this milestone. Since not all women can return to campus to celebrate, Notre Dame is bringing the celebration to the women. Stay tuned! There is a lot to celebrate!
Oh, how I love to ski!
I did not learn to ski as a young child, although my family took a few ski trips when I was in grade school. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I knew skiing would be a life-long love.
And oh how I loved it! (Maybe, as a swimmer, because the snow is frozen water?) My friends taught me to ski (nothing like a little peer pressure to take you down a run for which you aren’t quite ready…) and our high school ski trips were an experience unto themselves (16 hours on a bus through the Rocky Mountains to Telluride or Purgatory, oh my!) But the rush and the thrill of skiing down the mountain was liberating, exhilarating…all those feelings that can’t quite be put into words, until you experience it on the slopes.
And then I went to college…and lots changed. And I didn’t ski for a long time. I could, once I had healed, but I was scared. So much of what I loved about skiing was the sense of powerlessness, of being out of control heading down the slopes. Part of this was being silly and 16, but at 20 or 22 or 25, I was afraid to be out of control - and I was afraid to ski, as sad as that was to lose an activity I loved.
But I loved it and I wanted my children to love it - and to not be afraid of it. So a few years ago, I taught them how to ski. Not on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains (although hopefully we’ll make it out there some day), but on the hills of Pennsylvania, a much more manageable trip. I taught them to ski, I taught them to turn and I taught them to be cautious. But they are also young, adventurous boys, and the more they skied, the better they got.
This month we went on an overnight ski trip with some friends. Once again, peer pressure set in and both my boys (ages 9 and 11) skied down black diamond runs (although unlike their mom 25 years ago, they were armed with careful turns and ski helmets). And so did I. For the first time in over 20 years, I skied unafraid, although much more in control (a lesson from my sons, perhaps). I didn’t realize how much I had missed this, how much I needed this and how freeing it would be, until I realized how emotional it was to ski these slopes.
Even 20+ years later, I am still on this journey to figure out who I am and what my life is and has become. This time I found it on the hills of Pennsylvania.
Last week I had the privilege to serve as the afternoon keynote speaker at a company’s annual meeting. The company, Case Design/Remodeling, thought outside the box and invited me into their company culture for the afternoon. In the months and days leading up to this talk, when I told friends and acquaintances where I was speaking, most gave me a funny look as if to say, “You’re speaking at a home design and remodeling company meeting? What does your story have to do with that?”
My answer was always the same: you never know who needs to hear what I have to say.
I truly believe this. I know, going into each talk, that there will be someone in the audience who - for one reason or another - needs to hear what I have to share. It may be more on a personal level than a professional level; but for most of us to do our jobs well, we must be settled and at a place of satisfaction in all areas of our lives.
This talk proved no different. I didn’t know who I would reach, but I knew I would reach someone. And the answer followed me out of the meeting.
The morning speaker left after the morning session to attend a lunch meeting. He didn’t plan on returning, as he was an invited speaker - like myself - and not a meeting attendee. However, when his lunch meeting cancelled, he felt called back to the conference center - not sure why. As he reentered the meeting, I was about three-quarters of the way through my talk. At the end, where I talk about gifts: how we all have gifts and we need to share our gifts. I am not really sure exactly what I said, because I don’t speak from notes; I speak off-the-cuff. So, as always, my words that afternoon came from the heart…straight to the other speaker’s heart.
About 30 minutes after my presentation, as I was leaving the building, this other speaker followed me out. He shared with me how meaningful my words were; how he had been contemplating following his heart and using his gifts, which weren’t necessarily the ones he was using (quite successfully, I might add) in his current job. He truly believed that God sent him back to the meeting to speak to him, through me.
How cool is that?
This may be a very large and powerful example of how our words can affect others’ lives, but keep in mind that you never know who may need to hear what you say; and you never know how your words can impact someone’s life. Choose them carefully. Choose them lovingly. Choose them from the heart.
The following is a brief excerpt from my book, which is also on the STORY page of this site:
Although it is Super Bowl Sunday, there is nothing super about it. Next to swimming, I love football, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t care about the game. I don’t know who is playing, but it is a blowout. And it’s just a game. To millions of fans it is everything on this day; but to me, today, it means nothing.
I have thought about this passage several times recently; the first time because it was brought to my attention, and then because of a personal situation.
Two weeks ago, I attended a book club where my book was the month’s selection. I love book clubs; I love the opportunity to sit down with a group of (usually) women to discuss what they took from my story. Just as the most meaningful part of my talks and presentations are the after-discussions where members of the audience approach me to share part of their lives, a book club is an entire evening of this intimate exchange. It is also fascinating to learn what passages, or parts of my story, they most connected.
At this book club was a Washington Redskins fan (not hard to find in Annapolis) whose first connection to my story was the above Super Bowl passage: “I was reading the part about the Super Bowl and I thought, “YES! This is 1992 - she’s going to show my Redskins some love! But then you wrote something like, ‘to me it means nothing.’”
Yes, it meant nothing. On that particular day in my life, I had just been told I would never walk. The Super Bowl seemed meaningless during this time of crisis.
And yet, over the past two weeks I have also learned that the Super Bowl doesn’t always have to be meaningless for those who are in a time of crisis. That sometimes, even though it’s just a game, we need a respite from ourselves, from our lives and from our crisis.
We are Ravens fans. The state of Maryland is purple this weekend. The inside of our house is decorated with purple Christmas lights and we look forward to watching the game with friends tonight. But we also have dear friends, dear Ravens fans, whose family is in crisis right now. A family for whom this Super Bowl is probably as meaningless as the ‘92 Super Bowl was to me. And yet it’s not. It is a respite from the fear they face. It is a quick journey to hope and celebration. It is a weekend to celebrate life and the fight. That is the way they have chosen to see it. That is their choice - and I celebrate it, and them. They display a wisdom and a grace that I did not have at age 18, and I honor them for it.
Today’s Super Bowl will still be meaningless to some, but I have a new perspective on what it can be.
(And yes, we are fully aware of the fact that both the Ravens AND Notre Dame went to their respective championship games in the same year is amazing!)