Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for September, 2008

I had the honor while visiting Notre Dame to attend a freshman seminar class. The students had read What Though the Odds and I was invited to share with them some insight into my writing, the process and the story. At the end of the semester these students will each write their own autobiography.

One of my favorite – albeit now-defunct – magazines is “Biography.” It was an awesome collection of stories about the famous, infamous and regular Joes. The tagline was, “Every life has a story.”
That is so true. And never truer than when I visited Monk’s class.

Father Edward “Monk” Malloy was the President of Notre Dame when I was a student. He will always be “my president,” just like Dick Rosenthal is “my athletic director,” Lou Holtz “my football coach,” and Tim Welsh “my coach.” I say this with no disrespect to the current president, AD, football coach or women’s swim coach; I just can’t claim them as my own.

 Monk is an impressive figure. Not only physically (he’s well over six feet tall and played basketball for Notre Dame), but personally as well. My husband had the privilege of being a student in Monk’s class. I had the privilege of being a guest in his class.

These students – all freshmen – each shared their own personal reflection about the story: what impacted them, what struck them, what they found interesting to read. I listened and took notes while they spoke, and then joined in the discussion. It was so great to have the opportunity to share with them a bit of Notre Dame history, and also a story about my freshman year at Notre Dame. They are the same age as I was when the bus accident happened. They are in the midst of forming the same friendships I had formed; enjoying the football season as I did; figuring out their new-found independence as I was. Our lives are parallel, and it became very real for them to think of the book in terms of themselves and their own lives. Until the event that changed my life.

I can’t say that meeting me or reading my book is an event that will change their lives. But I know it has helped them to look at life differently – at people differently – perhaps at themselves differently. That is the gift I love to share.

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  • It is just before game time. This time last week, I was standing on the sidelines in Notre Dame Stadium on the field with my husband and sister. My husband wanted to come – My sister needed to come. Jamie wanted to come to share in this rare opportunity. Mary Frances was my personal paparazzi for the weekend – she needed to come to document such an exciting event in my life (as she did all weekend – check out the PHOTO section, she’s really good!)
    Three days before the game, I was asked to take part in the American Flag presentation before the game. If you have seen this done at Notre Dame, you know it is an emotional experience. Being asked to participate was moving beyond words.

    If there are two things I love – besides my family – it is Notre Dame and my country. I am a true patriot. Just like Barbara Mandrell was “country when country wasn’t cool” – I was a patriot before it became popular to be so. We live in the greatest country in the world.

    To have these two “loves” combined – was thrilling. Listening to the crowd cheer as my name was announced, and then walking across the field to help present the American flag to the Irish Guard, while listening to the words of the Declaration of Independence, was awesome. As the flag was raised and the National Anthem played, I was very emotional. And very honored.

    Notre Dame tends to bring out the emotional side in me. I was thankful to spend the evening catching up with old and dear friends, new friends and my family. What could be better? Perhaps great photographs to remember the day.

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  • OH, WHAT A DAY! (part 2)

    As we get ready for this weekend’s Notre Dame vs. Michigan St. football game, I have almost dried out from attending last week’s ND vs. Michigan football game. But what haven’t dried up are the memories from that day.

    Coach Lou Holtz, who wrote the Foreword to my book, was on campus for a celebration of his own.  He and the 1988 National Championship football team celebrated their 20th reunion. It was obvious that these teammates were just like any of us: honored to be a part of the University, humbled to be honored in a very public way, and just having a good ole’ time with their former teammates. What team doesn’t relish the opportunity to get together and reminisce as only former teammates can?

    While I was signing books at the ND Bookstore, Coach Holtz was honored with the unveiling of a statue of himself (with two players) in Notre Dame Stadium.  I was sorry to miss this monumental event, but thrilled to meet up with Coach Holtz afterwards during his celebration Brunch.

    The Notre Dame Monogram Club, of which I serve on its Board of Directors, put together the events for the entire weekend. It is our mission to Bridge the Gap between Legend and Legacy. This weekend we did just that. By bringing back former football players to inspire our current players (it worked!) and by allowing me to share with the current women’s swim team a bit of the program’s history.

    We all have so much to honor and celebrate.

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    I have been blessed over the past two weeks to have had many opportunities to Share the Inspiration!

    Tonight I am honored to return to my high school alma mater, Xavier College Preparatory, to do a book reading and signing. This morning (at 5:45am!) I was on a local Arizona television show: Good Morning! Arizona to promote the book and tonight’s event.

    You can watch this newcast by going to the VIDEO section of the website – or click on “Good Morning! Arizona” to the right.

    I have lots to finishing blogging about: the rest of my trip to Notre Dame and tonight’s event at Xavier. Stay tuned!

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  • OH, WHAT A DAY! (part one)

    Actually, what a day – what a weekend – what a game!

    There is so much to tell about my five days in South Bend – starting with my talk at Queen of Peace and ending with my attendance at Father Malloy’s seminar class. In between, I had the day of a lifetime!

    Last Friday I attended the Monogram Club Board meeting. While this doesn’t exactly fit into my “day of a lifetime” category, serving on the Board has been the opportunity of a lifetime. It is our duty, our privilege, as Directors of the Monogram Club Board to serve the current student-athletes at Notre Dame. These fine young people are inspiring, and some of the finest in the country - as are my fellow Board members. Spending nine hours together, three times a year, reminds me how lucky I am to be a part of the University. It also restores and refreshes my desire to be a better person. The day was long, and we all work hard, but we also have a lot of fun.

    Saturday, September 13th ROCKED!
    Actually, I should say: Saturday, September 13th RAINED! 6.5 inches of rain in ONE day. It was WET.

    My day started at the NOTRE DAME BOOKSTORE. How great is that?!? The Notre Dame bookstore on a football Saturday is hoppin’! It was also a haven for all those who didn’t want to get wet. Didn’t matter – they got wet anyway. I spent two hours at the ND Bookstore – and then an hour at the Varsity Shop - signing books. But not just signing books: meeting with people. It was so great to meet old friends and new friends; teammates who shared this event with me, and parents of teammates; young swimmers and not-so-young swimmers.

    And then there were the few who moved me to tears: the friends who knew my deceased teammates, the girl whose brother was paralyzed in a similar accident. These readers, who had never met me, were touched by my story in a real and personal way – because it became their story too.

    How blessed I was to have this opportunity to reach out and meet with my readers. Through reading my book, they feel they know me. They do. At these book signings it is my honor to get to know them too.

    Thank you to all who came out, came by and braved the rain to say hello. You are helping me to Share the Inspiration!

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    Yesterday I visited Queen of Peace Middle School and spoke to a group of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. The 8th graders had read What Though the Odds, while the younger students had read an article about my story and the book.


    Before I even walked into the school, I saw signs to greet me. Computer-made signs and hand-made signs, posted on the doors and the walls – and just about anywhere I looked. I was greeted by three students who escorted me to the library, where the rest of the students were waiting.

    I was nervous and I was excited. In some ways I was returning home: not to the classroom to teach history (as I used to), but spending an afternoon with students to share my journey: my physical, emotional and spiritual journey. Which I realized, was a history lesson to them. None was born 16 years ago when the bus accident occurred. Because some of the students had read the book, I didn’t focus too much on the facts, but more on the emotions and my struggles as a teenager. I thought perhaps that was something to which they could relate.

    But they got it. They got it all. As I met with their teacher, Mary Korzan (she’s got a great story too: www.OnceUponAPoem.com) afterwards, she shared with me some of the board games the students had made, based on the book. I was touched, and moved – and amused! They were awesome (example: “wiggle a toe: move forward 2 spaces” or “another surgery: lose a turn”). So great!

    Mary Korzan also shared with me – anonymously – some of their responses to the question: Name three things you learned from this book. I think you will find the sampling as impressive as I did:

    1. To know there is such a thing as miracles.
    2. It made me appreciate what I have and my friends and family.
    3. It made me realize that you learn who your real friends are when you are in real trouble.
    4.  I learned that your life can change in the blink of an eye.
    5.  I learned that anything is possible and that if you believe in God, you can get through anything.
    6.  I learned you should never listen to the hospital nurses.
    7.  I learned that the human spirit is good.
    8.  I learned to never give up.
    9.  I learned to think about how much someone might be hurting.
    10.  I now know perseverance pays off.
    11. The book made me feel stronger to do more things.
    12.  I learned that if you believe in it, it can happen.
    13.  I learned how one event affects a whole group.
    14.  I learned not to take things for granted.
    15.  I learned that I should have patience and courage.
    16.  I learned how much you have to rely on someone else when you are hurt like that.
    17.  It helped me learn how to keep trying.
    18.  I learned that anything is possible if you have faith and courage.

    What a gift I have been given. One of the reasons I loved teaching was to inspire in my students a love and appreciation of history. I welcome this opportunity to teach them different lessons – life lessons – and to hopefully continue to touch lives. This is what inspires me.

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    This morning I was supposed to compete with two good friends in the 2nd Annual Annapolis Triathlon.

    About a month ago, we were notified that the biking portion of the Triathlon was eliminated – citing permit issues…or lack of being issued a permit. What? A triathlon with no bike? It was renamed, to maintain correctness: the Annapolis Aquathon. Okay, we’ll make do…

    Then just last week I received an e-mail that the event had been cancelled all together. Sigh…

    So instead, today, a day after Tropical Storm Hanna pounded Annapolis with rain, it is a beautiful Fall day. One of those days that remind us why we love living here. I woke up and went for a run. It was 65 degrees outside. After breakfast, I took my boys outside and we rode bikes. And this afternoon, we were invited to swim at a friend’s pool.

    Not the run, bike, swim triathlon I thought I would do today. But it was a run, bike, swim day with my family – all of us at home (with no houseguests) for the first time since MAY. I can’t complain. In fact – I celebrate it!

    Sometimes in life, the race we plan is not the race in which we compete. But it is the journey to get there that makes it all worthwhile. I thank everyone who has taken – and who continues to take – this journey with me!

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    School starts tomorrow for my boys – as it does for many students across the country. We are sad summer is over, but also looking forward to the excitement of a new school year.

    The past two weeks we have vacationed with family and friends, and once again I have been reminded how important a sense of community is.

    A dear friend of our family’s – of my parents’ – passed away last week. He was 62 and I have known him almost my entire life. He and his wife, my mom’s dearest friend, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary just days before he passed away. I have cried for her and for their children with whom I grew up.

    But their family will be okay. They will mourn and be sad and carry their father/husband with them each day of their own journey. But they have built a community that will sustain them through this difficult time. They have friends and family members who will go above and beyond to make this time more bearable. We all need that in our lives – and I am thankful they have it, and proud that our family is a part of it. They were always there for us.

    I also, by happenstance, ran into an old friend from our days in Philadelphia. We were both vacationing on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This couple was the very first friends my husband and I met after we got married. A few years ago, Tracey – at age 38 – was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She battled and she suffered, but when we went to visit them – I was so comforted to see the community they had built for themselves and for their two daughters. They too would be okay.

    We all need this – but it doesn’t just happen. You have to create it. You have to live your life contributing to a community, so when you need it, it is there.

    The old saying is true: what you give, you receive back tenfold.

    Happy Labor Day! I hope you take a day to relax and enjoy your family and friends. I hope you enjoy a bit of your own community.

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