Today my family is heading into Washington (”DC” if you live on the west coast) to watch Notre Dame’s Women’s Lacrosse team play in the championship game of the Big East Tournament.
Why do I mention this? For a number of reasons. First of all, we are going as a family. It has become part of our family culture to attend sporting events. It is something we like to do together and it is an enjoyable activity that allows us to spend time together, to create memories, and to teach lessons of fair play, kindness and being a good sport. And as the mother of two boys (ages 5 and 7) those teachable moments are welcomed!
It is also a way for my children to understand and appreciate women’s athletics and women as capable athletes. I grew up feeling as though my athletic talent was valued, and I want my children to view women as strong and capable as well. My sons see no difference between a women’s lacrosse Big East championship game and the Final Four. In fact, my oldest said, “Hey, they (ND women’s LAX) made it to the final four of the Big East tournament!” Yes, they did.
We are also attending today’s game as a connection between our past and our present. I say “our” because my husband went to Notre Dame too (if you didn’t know that already). And while Notre Dame is the foundation of our past, it also permeates our present.
For the past three years I have served on the Board of Directors of the Monogram Club at Notre Dame. Our tagline used to read: Bridging the Gap Between Legend and Legacy. We now proclaim the Club to be (and serve): Athletes of Notre Dame. Last week when I attended our spring board meeting for the Monogram Club, I felt proud of what we had accomplished during my tenure as a director on the board, both for our current student-athletes and our former athletes.
I was also thrilled to be asked to stay on in a leadership position as 2nd Vice President of the Club, beginning a rotation that will carry me through to the presidency. What an honor to be able to serve the Club - and our athletes - in this capacity. Current student-athletes like the ones playing for the Big East championship today in Washington. And former athletes like the players who returned to campus last weekend for a football reunion, a lacrosse reunion, and the 60th anniversary of Black Athletes at Notre Dame celebration. It is all part of contributing to, and connecting with, an important community in our lives.
I hope to continue along the theme of not only bridging the gap between legend and legacy, but as a Club, being the bridge that closes the gap. It is important to our family.
Greetings from South Bend. I have been here for the past four days, attending Monogram Club meetings, celebrating a reunion to celebrate 60 years of black athletes at Notre Dame (a Monogram Club-sponsored event), filming a video for the University that will air in the Fall - and enjoying some personal time with old and new friends.
As always, my first stop on campus was to visit Meghan’s grave site. It is a quiet place for me to reflect and reconnect with what I love most about Notre Dame: the family, faith and friendships that grew from my time here. I believe that the athletes who returned for their reunion felt the same way: grateful for the opportunity and invitation to reconnect with what they love about Notre Dame. I know when we celebrated 35-years of women’s athletics at ND two years ago that many of my teammates felt the same way. There is something comforting about returning to your roots, returning to a place that was so fundamental in our development as adults. This is also some of what I spoke about in the video I filmed for the University.
I will share in my next post more details of my two-day Monogram Club meetings, and what the Club means to me, but first I want to thank two special people for having dinner with me on Wednesday night. Kevin and Mark.
The acknowledgements section of my book reads in part: To Trooper Kevin Kubsch and all those who gave their time, hearts and jackets to us on that fateful night, I thank you.
Kevin and Mark were two of the officers who were first on the scene of our bus accident. 17 years later I had the opportunity to thank them, and to learn from them. It was clear from our dinner that they both gave to us their time - and their hearts. Both expressed the impact that night has had on their lives; neither has seen anything like it in their professional lives since. Listening to them recount the evening from their viewpoint, I was in awe of these men. They might say the same about me, but Kevin and Mark represent the beginning of the goodness…the goodness that has surrounded me since the night of the accident.
To Trooper Kevin Kubsch, Mark Fedder, and all those who gave their time, hearts and jackets to us on that fateful night, I thank you.
We recently returned from Spring Break. It was wonderful to be together as a family - and to be with my parents. Four adults and two children is a great ratio when you are on vacation. Especially when the two children are non-stop swimmers, wave jumpers, water slide riders and sand diggers. As with all 5- and 7-year-olds, my boys do not stop.
I happen to love this particular hotel; it just might be my favorite vacation destination. I first visited with my then 90-year-old grandfather when he needed someone to accompany him to a convention. I was happy to spend that cherished trip with him.
We have since returned to this same hotel three times as a family, each time bringing with it special memories. My older son remembered the waterslides and Oreo smoothies from our last trip; and I have no doubt our younger son will remember this trip as well.
In the true spirit of Family, we spent a week together with few work distractions or obligations. That does not happen often in our household. It doesn’t happen in many homes, unless you make it a priority.
My husband travels a lot for work. I have been busier than normal over the past 18 months - writing and now traveling to share the story of my book. But what remains most important to us is family; raising our children and providing for them the roots that will someday - hopefully - allow them to soar.
Taking an exciting trip for Spring Break isn’t the foundation of these roots, but what it represents and what we make it to be, is what is most important. Spending time with family. Leaving the cell phones behind so our children have our full attention during the day. Watching my dad play chess with my older son - and having it be an even match. And watching my mom teach my younger son how to body surf. These are treasured memories.
It is the little things we did that I know my children will remember, cherish even - like spending time with their grandparents, just as I cherish the time I had with my grandfather at this same hotel. What is special is not the location, but the time together and the memories created.
As we approach this holy time of year with Easter and Passover, may we remember to celebrate the little things in life, our time with family, our blessings and our memories created.
If you have read my book or are familiar with my story, you might not think that I need a reality check - or reminder - about what is most important in life. But sometimes I do.
I recently connected with a teammate and classmate from Notre Dame. We were both freshman swimmers when we were involved in the bus accident. We have drifted in and out of each others’ lives over the years, but as with most of my teammates, I tried to keep in touch - or at least keep up with - her life.
And life has dealt her additional challenges. It was inspiring this past weekend to see a woman who lives her life as I try to. A woman who chose a spouse who would be a partner, a best friend, and someone who would be there for her down life’s crazy journey. Not all of us are so fortunate. I know - as she knows - that our family unit will ground us, sustain us, and remain secure during a time of crisis.
My teammate has three children. Her oldest is my youngest son’s age, and they had a blast playing together. Her youngest was born this past December, and I treasured holding a new life.
Her middle child is amazing. She was born with severe physical disabilities. For fear of describing this precious child in incorrect terms, and for privacy, I won’t share more than this: this child is a gift - and a teacher. I know she has taught her parents a deeper love than they knew before, deeper challenges than they had faced in the past, and deeper emotions than perhaps they knew possible. And through this child, I have learned what a truly remarkable person my teammate is.
We talked a lot about our lives since the accident, our lives as wives and mothers, and of course a lot about our children. We also talked about our faith and my teammate said something that struck me:
“People casually use the word tragedy so often with a defeating tone. You’ve lived through tragedy; we’ve lived through tragedy. Don’t people understand that with tragedy comes so much goodness?! Sometimes I think God takes us as far as He can, to see if we still trust Him. And when we do, He takes care of us.”
I was amazed to hear her words. We are more alike than I had realized. What she said is what I say so often at my talks: With tragedy you can choose to become more bitter and fearful, or you can surround yourself by the goodness you find. Despite the tragedy she faced as a teenager in our bus accident and despite the challenges she lives with as a mother of a special needs child, my friend chose the latter.
Family, Faith and Friendship - did it take tragedy at a young age for us to realize their importance? Perhaps. But it also took our visit to remind me to live life as she does: embracing the goodness, and embracing our children for who they are, including their challenges.