Haley Scott DeMaria

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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

     

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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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  • I NEED TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF

    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. 

    I need to take care of myself. I think this comes more with age; however, there are times when I need to remember that my body isn’t like everyone else’s and that I really need to take better care of myself.

    When we are younger, we can “power through,” we think we can do anything, and we tend to ignore a lingering cough. As we age, this becomes harder and harder to do, or we’ll end up in the hospital. (And I’m not that old, so it will become even more important to listen to my body as I continue to age).

    Last year, I continued to “power through” and ignore some health signs that “weren’t that bad,” and I ended up in the emergency room with a kidney infection. Thank goodness for friends who came in the middle of the night to drive me and to stay with my kids so they didn’t wake up with no parent in the house. I needed to take better care of myself; instead, I was out of commission for about two months.

    I was reminded of this this morning while driving home from dropping my son off at the bus stop. I am tired, as most moms are in December, and I suddenly remembered that my nephew arrived home last night after his first semester at the United States Air Force Academy. I got teary (see I AM EMOTIONAL) thinking of his reunion with his parents. And then I reminded myself that I get more emotional when I am tired; AND that I am more inclined to get sick when I am tired.

    My train of thought drew me back to a few Christmases ago; I was really sick. I was run down and tired (again, I was a mom in December), and I remember a conversation my husband – very lovingly – had with me when I felt better. He said: You can’t do this. I don’t want our kids to grow up with their memories of mom being sick every Christmas. 

    That was the third year in a row that I had been sick on Christmas. I needed to take better care of myself. And I have.

    I am tired, but I also know there are things I won’t push myself to do. The cookies might not all get made. The presents might not have bows. The teachers won’t have homemade gifts, unless someone else makes them (which she did – thanks Lisa!) And my house might be a mess. But I will be happy on Christmas Day (and happier during the season of Advent) having learned to take better care of myself.

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  • I AM EMOTIONAL

    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. 

    I am emotional. I would not have told you this about myself when I was younger. And perhaps I wasn’t emotional when I was a teenager (and before). But I have learned – over the past 25 years – that I am an emotional person. At least when it comes to certain things.

    Injuries, illness, and tragedy are a few of those “certain things.”

    Not in a way that feels inauthentic, or as though I am hanging-on to a tragic event to be involved. We all know people like that: they dive in and thrive on tragedy, wanting to swoop in and very publicly help out. While that’s not my preference, those people play a valuable and necessary role.

    No, my emotions come from an understanding of what it’s like to experience tragedy; to be injured; to have your life change in a way that is horrible – yet at times beautiful. My emotions are both physical and mental reactions that I can’t control.

    Last night, a Pittsburgh Steeler suffered a spinal injury. I watched it, and re-watched it. And it was awful. It IS awful. While many people prayed for him last night, and checked online to see how he was doing this morning; most Americans’ active interest will fade as the week continues. But not mine. Once you have experienced tragedy – especially a tragedy so similar in nature – it never goes away. And with one hit of a defensive player, it returns, even after 25 years. The emotions of the hospital, a spinal injury, the end of an athletic career, and an uncertain future, all flood back in an instant.

    I become emotional. Not for myself, but for the other person, for their family, for everyone whose lives will be altered by that hit. Ryan Shazier’s injury tugged at most people’s emotions; as it will for a long time for those of us who live with a spinal injury.

     

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  • I AM HARD ON MYSELF

    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. 

    I am hard on myself. I am hard on others as well, but mostly it is a reflection of the perfection I expect from myself.

    My sister turned 40 last week while we were in Florida for Thanksgiving. As usual when we are together, we laughed and told funny stories about things we have done. One of those stories included a watercolor class we took on vacation.

    My sister is extremely talented. She is creative. She has an eye for art, painting, photography and style. She may not see it; but for someone who doesn’t have those things, I see her talents clearly. During our watercolor class, she painted a beautiful scene. I painted a flower with ridged lines and defined objects…not the point of painting with watercolors. But, as a perfectionist, I couldn’t even have something that was supposed to be blurry, blur together. It’s just not in my ability. And yet, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to paint with watercolors.

    I see this same trait in my son. He too is a perfectionist, and he too is hard on himself when he falls short of perfection. It can be a tough way to go through life, because no one is perfect. So expecting perfection means we’ll always fall short in our minds. I’m trying to help him see this, and it has given me some perspective as well.

    Perfection shouldn’t be the goal, we should only expect perfection in our efforts.

     

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