Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for December, 2015


Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #1 The Magic of a Normal Day

A friend of mine recently wrote: Try and remember that a normal day is actually kind of magic if you are together and healthy.

Her 6-year-old son has been fighting stage-four neuroblastoma for the past 20 months. For three months this fall, his cancer stopped; the lights on the tests were dim (indicating no active cancer) and she marveled in the magic of a normal day.

For many parents a normal day is far from magic. Depending on the age of your children, it’s lots of driving, cooking, negotiating, laundry, cleaning the house, reminding (for the 14th time!), and maybe some nagging… It’s packing lunches, changing diapers, watching the clock, and scheduling appointments. It often times looks far from magic.

But following my friend’s journey – one that too many parents are on, but none should be – I have tried to be mindful of the magic of a normal day. A day when my children wake-up healthy. A day when they smile at me and their biggest challenge is “where are my socks?” Maybe their challenge is a friend who doesn’t sit next to them at lunch, or my son’s knee injury that kept him away from sports for three months. But hearts and knees mend. And smiles are magic.

My greatest blessing in 2015 has been the magic of normal days. As crazy and as stressful as these normal days may be at times, they are magic when we are together and healthy.

Happy New Year! May all of us, in 2016, enjoy the magic of a normal day.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #2 Family

    Big surprise, right? Family should be near the top of a list of all blessings we celebrate.

    It goes without saying that my children are my greatest accomplishment. They are wacky, entertaining, quirky, driven, and so many other adjectives. But they are mine and they are wonderful, and as any parent knows, there is nothing like being a parent.

    My husband is my rock. I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for him; and that includes everything: I wouldn’t be the parent I am without him, I couldn’t travel to give talks, or serve on two boards at Notre Dame. Right down to being the cook (or lack of cook) that I am: he’ll try anything I make, and encourage me to keep trying. After 15 years of marriage, we continue to be true partners.

    But family doesn’t just include our blood relatives. I often talk about the family we are born into and the family we create. Both are so important, meaningful and essential in our lives. My Notre Dame family, my St. Anne’s School of Annapolis family, our Naval Academy Midshipmen who have become family, my Xavier College Preparatory family (both from when I was a student and then a teacher), my family of moms who help me navigate parenthood. These “families” are a very real and important part of my life.

    As 2015 comes to a close, my family remains my greatest blessing. Every day. Every week. Every year.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #3 Books

    I continue to be blessed by the reception of my book. Each week I receive emails from readers (who emails an author? THANK YOU to all who have written – you make my day!!!!) It has – and continues to be – an amazing blessing to share my story. Thank you for reading and for allowing me to share my message of love and hope.

    There are other books that have been a blessing to me this year. I recently read the book “Concussion” about the doctor who discovered CTE, the disease found in football players (and other contact-sport athletes) caused by repetitive hits to the head. This is a personal story for me for many reasons (too many to go into right now); I am saddened by the disease, while being inspired by Dr. Bennet Omalu and this book. Saddened for those who have been affected by CTE, and inspired to know that one person can change – and save – lives. The movie is excellent; the book is even better (as usual).

    I am also the member of a book club that reads books I would never read otherwise. I love this! I love my eclectic group of ladies who gather once a month and actually talk about the book! (Reading the book is not required…) Book Club has been a blessing to me in many ways: I have met new and interesting friends, I have expanded my world views because of the books we have read, and I have met other (women!) authors who are inspiring in their unique way. Book Club has allowed me to learn and grow, and that is a blessing I hope to continue in 2016!

    Be inspired! Keep reading!

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #4 Medicine

    Medicine is a general term for our health – but there are a few caveats as to why I am thankful for more than “our health.”

    Our family is relatively healthy (knock on wood! No really, I just did!) My children rarely get sick; my husband and I could eat better, but  for the most part, our general health is stable and solid. (If you are wondering, I eat too much sugar.) My parents and siblings aren’t as young as they used to be (who is?) but we are free from major disease and illness.

    But there are things….issues…that make me grateful for the blessing of medicine as I look back on 2015. Medicine itself – the medication I take daily – is one. I have lingering nerve damage from the bus accident. I don’t talk about it often (sometimes not at all) and it’s not major (just annoying sometimes, and I do have to be careful that it doesn’t spiral out of control). But medication helps control the symptoms; medication helps me live a relatively normal and active life. And that’s amazing!

    Medicine in the form of Dr. Garfin overwhelms me at times, sometimes to the point of tears. Dr. Garfin straightened my spine (23 years ago – wow!) which allows me to stand straight and live pain free. Again – Amazing! On a day to day basis, I might take this for granted. But there are moments – like when I am skiing with my boys, or jumping waves in the ocean, or throwing the football with my son, that I stop for a moment and think about how blessed I am to be able to ski, jump and run around. The blessing of these normal activities were almost not mine – but are, because of modern medicine. And that is a blessing not just for 2015, but every year and every day.

    This year Dr. Garfin worked his magic on my dad. My dad was suffering from dehabilitating pain, and Dr. Garfin – and modern medical procedures – took that away. We are all blessed. And I look forward to spending time in 2016 throwing the football, skiing and spending time on a boat in the ocean jumping the waves with my dad….and my boys. And maybe trying to eat a little less sugar.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #5 Boats

    Looking back on 2015, boats were a big part of our family’s life. Living in Annapolis, MD, we don’t own a boat, but we have many friends who do. It’s the sailing capital of the country – and boating is an integral part of the culture.

    One of our favorite weekends in the summer is our annual “end of school boat trip,” with close friends from our boys’ school. For the past 10 years, we have boated with friends to celebrate the end of school and the beginning of summer. And while we usually boat to the location, weather has some times had other ideas (like the year we drove to the Chesapeake Bay Hyatt for our end of school boat trip – no boats included). In a way, it’s not the actual boat that is the blessing, it’s the time with friends and family that makes it special.

    We also took a few cruises in 2015, again spending time on a boat with our children and other family members. And while I love the water, the warmth, and sitting on the deck watching the blue of the ocean, it is the time and togetherness (often times in a small-ish cabin) that makes me smile.

    I am grateful for these moments. We are blessed to spend time on boats – large and small – with family and friends, laughing, telling stories and creating memories from 2015 that will last for many years.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #6 Social Media

    On the first day of Christmas… We sang the “12 Days of Christmas” last night at my sister’s house after Christmas dinner. There were 12 of us, so each person was assigned a “day,” and my family indulged me in the holiday tradition of caroling. A couple of times during the song I thought, “Thank goodness no one is filming this so it doesn’t end up on Facebook.”

    Social Media wasn’t a part of my childhood, or I’m not sure I would have readily partook in family silliness. With that in mind, I should be thankful that my children do. And while social media certainly has it’s downside and pitfalls, so there is so much about it that I love.

    Growing up in Arizona, going to school in Indiana and now living in Maryland, I have friends and family who live all over the country (actually, all over the world). Close friends. Friends I wish I could see more often. With social media, I can. No longer do I have to wait for Christmas cards to see how tall my nephews or my friends’ children have grown…I get to see daily and weekly photos. Are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter (and whatever else) time-consuming? Absolutely, if you allow them to be. But they can also help to keep us informed.

    Social media is a great news outlet, for both personal news and around the world. Friends’ engagements, births, deaths, and health issues. It’s a great way to celebrate with near and far loved ones, and a great way to expand the circle of prayers when needed. And we all need them.

    I am grateful for the blessing of social media because it allows me to stay connected, celebrate, and pray with those who mean the most to me. And I do love watching (and sometimes posting) those funny family videos.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #7 Holidays

    Merry Christmas! I hope, whatever you celebrate, that your holiday was filled with joy, love and laughter.

    Looking back on 2015, what I love most about holidays (from Christmas, to birthdays to Valentine’s Day and Columbus Day) are the traditions we build as a family. Of course there is the historical and religious meaning behind each holiday, as well as great food, great friends and family. But as I sat at mass last night and reflected on the Christmases of my childhood, I was reminded of how meaningful those experiences are for our children. We are laying the foundation and building our family traditions, while creating memories that my boys will recall (with fondness, I hope) when they have their own families. These are the traditions that link generations. These are the solid roots that allow our children to soar.

    Yes, I love decorating for Christmas, baking cookies, shopping for and wrapping presents for the children we select off the Angel Tree at church. But more importantly, I love sharing each of these activities with my children and helping them to see the blessings in our lives.

    (We celebrated late into the night at my sister’s house….so it’s still Christmas to me, but it’s after midnight, so technically this is posting on the 26th. That’s a great holiday tradition that I hope my children enjoy as well: family and togetherness.)

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #8 Faith

    We just returned from Christmas Eve mass. As always, church is crowded on holidays, so we arrived early to grab seats. During the hour before mass, I had time to think, reflect, write and read.

    I thought about the blessing of my faith, of having a faith and the gift my family gave me in laying the foundation for my faith. I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I was raised to believe. At Notre Dame, my faith was strengthened through tragedy and continues to grow as I navigate life.

    Reflecting on this, I am filled with gratitude that I have my faith as a guiding light. It steers my decisions, our family values and the way we choose to celebrate holidays and every day life.

    As I thought about and reflected on gratitude before mass, Jamie, the boys and I wrote thank you notes. Gratitude for friendships and gifts we received before Christmas. I am a big believer in thank you notes (thanks again mom!) and it was a neat way to spend a few minutes before mass, in reflection on gifts shared.

    Lastly, I read a book on the Magi: The Revelation of the Magi. It’s a fascinating look at the story of the three wise men, based on an 1800-year-old manuscript. How do we know that? Science of course. But also Faith: a believe in things that can’t be seen or proved. Kind of like Santa Claus…

    Merry Christmas Eve! May your faith be a light in the darkness and a guiding force of gratitude for our blessings.

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    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #9 The Monogram Club

    The Monogram Club is Notre Dame’s varsity letter winners association. In 2015, I ended my 2-year term as the Club’s president. The Monogram Club serves as a bridge between former student-athletes and the University. For many of us, our teammates have graduated and our coaches have retired and are no longer at Notre Dame; thus, the Club serves as a link back to a place we call home.

    While I have served on the Club’s board of directors for nine years, my time as president was a great privilege. Notre Dame student-athletes (both current and former) are amazing individuals, and with each interaction I had with Club members, I was inspired to do more, be more and serve more. The Club provides a wide range of fellowship opportunities: mass, pre- game receptions, career networking opportunities, and social and golf outings across the country. However, at the heart of the Club are the relationships we form with other Monogram winners.

    I have great friends from my four years as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: my classmates, my teammates and others in administration and the athletics department. And yet some of my closest relationships at Notre Dame stem from the Monogram Club. Across the sports and across the decades, it was an honor to guide our Club and serve Club’s membership.

    As I look back on 2015, the Monogram Club has been a huge blessing in my life. And as we look forward to 2016 and the Club’s 100th anniversary, I know it will continue to inspire me.

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  • BLESSING #10

    Counting down to 2016, I look back on the blessings of 2015: #10 Talks

    We had dinner last night with friends who moved from Annapolis to San Francisco five years ago. We spent many hours together when our children were younger, but have seen each other only once a year since then. And yet, when our families reunited with hugs (and food and wine and Nerf guns) it was as though no time had passed. (This is starting to sound like a blog about friends…I imagine this will be a theme with all blessings…)

    During the adult conversation (as the boys ran around the house – literally outside around the house) I was asked if I “still do much speaking.”  ”Yes, maybe 2-3 times a month.” To which our friends responded, “Wow, that’s amazing! You’ve been doing this for so many years.”

    Yes, I have…almost eight, actually. 2016 will mark the 8th anniversary of the publication of my book and my “speaking career.” I put that in quotes, because I actually don’t view it as a “career,” it’s more of a calling, and a privilege. It is a privilege to share my story. It is a privilege to share the message of Hope and Love, and the power of prayer and the power of the human spirit.

    I used to be terrified to speak in front of others. I was terrified when I gave my first talk after my book was published (thank you Mary Sill; I am forever grateful for the invitation!) But, as I tell others who are terrified to speak: it is a learned skill. It can be learned with practice – and with a belief in what you are sharing.

    When I first began speaking and sharing my story, I had no idea how it would be received. Now I know it’s a story worth sharing. Whether there are 20 or 2000 or 20,000 in my audience, I know someone needs to hear what I have to say. And touching the life of one person is powerful. It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing in my life to be invited to give a talk.

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