Haley Scott DeMaria

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Happy Thanksgiving!

I try to live my life in a perpetual state of Giving Thanks, and – as you can imagine – some days are easier than others. However, this week has been a recipe for everything most meaningful in my life.

Last week, my parents arrived. For those of us blessed to still have our parents with us, I am truly grateful to share today with them.
A few days later, my sister and her FAMILY arrived. And while my brother isn’t here, we talked to him a few times and will again today.
Last weekend, we celebrated our FAITH with mass for my older son’s high school class at their Junior Ring Mass. It was the perfect way to kick off Thanksgiving Week: in thoughtful reflection and celebration. Our oldest then spent three days on his junior retreat. We have been blessed to have two amazing schools help raise and develop our children: St. Anne’s School of Annapolis and Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore.
My younger son has pneumonia. And while that might not be something for which we are thankful right now; it is a reminder to be thankful for our good health, for healing, and to remember that many children are not healthy or healing.
On Monday this week, I visited Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island to speak to their student-athletes, coaches and teachers. I love what I do, and I love sharing it with others. This particular talk was meaningful because my dad went with me. We rode the train up and back (it was a long day trip), and received the most incredible hospitality while we were there. It was, again, a reminder of the kindness and goodness of people.
All throughout the week, I have been texting back and forth with FRIENDS. We are all with our respective families, but connected by the shared experiences and joy that bond us as close as our family.

The past two days have been filled with baking, shopping, cooking, shopping, cleaning up, and back to the grocery store because we forgot something. Those are all blessings too.

I hope your table and home – or wherever you are – is as blessed as ours.

Dad and I at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island.

Dad and I at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island.

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  • NOTRE DAME vs FLORIDA STATE

    From chapter 22 of What Though the Odds:

    Most Notre Dame football fans recall the 1993 season. We played and defeated the 1990s powerhouse Florida State University in a #1 vs. #2 matchup. The Fighting Irish were ranked #2, but the favored team in this home game. It was billed as the “Game of the Century,” and the campus was abuzz with excitement and press.
    The pep rally for the “Game of the Century” was held one week after my first race, on the Friday night before the football game. The basketball arena overflowed with fans and students. We had a swim meet that afternoon and most swimmers rushed through warm-down, barely showering, to sneak through the back door to the floor of the arena. I asked Coach if I could skip the last relay; I had a speech to write.
    I too walked through the back corridors of the Joyce Center, from the pool to the basketball arena. But I was stopped in the hallway and told to wait with the football players who were lined up to parade into the pep rally. Standing there between two much larger student-athletes, I heard the buzz:
    “Who’s the speaker?”
    “I hear it’s Joe Montana!”
    “Oh, that’s awesome!”
    I wanted to disappear into the wall I was leaning against.
    “Maybe it’s Regis!”
    “It better be somebody good. This is a big game!”
    It was then, I think, that they noticed there was a female standing among them. I do not know if they knew who I was, but I would guess some of them did. I smiled and said, “It’s just me.”
    Thankfully, one of the players, who it was I cannot recall, replied without hesitation, “It is someone good. That’s awesome!”

    And such was my first pep rally speech. 25 years later, I still remember the feeling of walking into the arena behind Coach Holtz. I still remember looking up from the podium and seeing my teammates sitting on the floor encouraging me, as they always did…and still do. I barely remember what I said, but it had something to do with how Notre Dame athletes know how to beat the odds.

    Tomorrow’s game against Florida State has the same implications as it did in 1993: we need to win to stay undefeated for a chance at a national title. And there is no doubt that those of us who were at – or watched – the game in 1993 will be thinking about that November weekend 25 years ago. But for me, I will be thinking about the Fighting Irish tonight as well, during their pep rally, and remembering with such gratitude the opportunity I had to share a small role in that amazing weekend, billed the “Game of the Century.” To me, I simply refer to it as the best football game I have ever attended. And the best pep rally.

    Go Irish! Beat Seminoles!
    ND-FSU pep rally 1993

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  • OCTOBER 29, 1993

    Below are three of my favorite photos…all taken on the same day: October 29, 1993. The day of my “first race back.” If I was more computer-savvy, I would know how to insert them into my post, but alas, I am not…so they are at the end. (As a side note: I am working on a new website. As another aside, my 14-year-old read over my shoulder and said, “Mom, I can help you with that.”  Stay tuned!)

    Today is the 25th anniversary of my return to competition. After 21 months of being out of the pool, 5 surgeries, three+ months in the hospital and hours (& hours!) of physical therapy learning to walk again, today, in 1993, I returned to competition. I just re-read the end of my book, beginning with the day of my first race. Part of me thought it would be the same as every other race, but it is not. Part of me knew it would be different, but it is not. I am strangely comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. 

    I remember the day being like every other race: just a race. And yet, it was so much more than “just a race.” It was a triumphant return f0r a community that was healing. And the community came out in full force to watch me compete: my family, my ER and OR doctors, the state trooper who was the first on the scene of our accident, students, friends, athletes, and coaches from all sports across campus.

    And then there was the one visitor I was most honored to see: Mrs. Hipp. October 29, 1993, was the day after what would have been her daughter, Colleen’s, 21st birthday. After hugging my parents, seeing Mrs. Hipp was the best hug of the day.

    There is so much more I could write about this day 25 years ago, but these pictures really do sum up how I felt: the joy of finishing and celebrating with my coach; the genuine hug and love from my father, and the time shared with Ann Hipp. There is so much love in all three photos; love that I felt 25 years ago, and still feel today.

    Coach Tim Welsh and I right after the 50 free.

    Coach Tim Welsh and I right after the 50 free.

    The best hug from my dad, just after the race.

    The best hug from my dad, just after the race.

    MRSHIPP

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  • ROCKNE MEMORIAL AWARD

    On September 7, I had the great honor of receiving the Rockne Memorial Society’s Award for Courage. The Rockne Memorial Society is a new organization dedicated to honoring and remembering the great life and contributions of Notre Dame’s legendary coach (and player), Knute Rockne. To be recognized in his name was, of course, an honor. To share the stage with the other winners, was a thrill. Most notably, the Rockne Champion Award winner: Coach Muffet McGraw.

    When I landed in Chicago en route to the ceremony, I received a text from a friend congratulating me on the award. She then commented, “I feel bad none of your family is there…” Jamie was in London, my parents were in Arizona, and my (teenage) boys thought going to their high school football game with friends sounded like more fun than being polite at an event while their mom got an award (as James added, “Again.”) But I did have family there.

    Members of the Rockne Memorial Society generously donated a table for each award recipient, and I was allowed to invite guests to attend with me. I was also invited to say a few words. Perfect. I can do both.

    My short remarks were my story told briefly through the friends who joined me at our table, and one who could not. Tim Welsh, my coach, was off doing what he does best: coaching other coaches. But I started with the words he shared with us many years ago: The purpose of Notre Dame Swimming is to pursue athletic-excellence, with self-discipline, and love for one another. Thank you, Tim, for living each day with love, and for teaching us to do the same.

    I came to Notre Dame in 1991 to be part of their athletic excellence. Our athletic director at the time, Dick Rosenthal, was a huge champion of women’s sports and he was a remarkable advocate for Title IX at Notre Dame. He always took care of us as students and as athletes. Thank you, Dick.

    The night of the accident, State Trooper Kevin Kubsch was one of the first responders at the site of our accident. He protected us from the start, and we are still friends today. Thank you, Kevin.

    When I arrived at Memorial Hospital, one of the first people I recognized was our young (at the time, but still looks young 26 years later!) associate athletic director, Missy Conboy. She was a familiar face among the chaos, and she assured me that my parents had been called and were on their way. She also made sure my best friend from Arizona – a St. Mary’s student – was called and on her way to the hospital as well. Missy’s presence and assuring words were a huge comfort to an 18-year-old going into emergency back surgery. And she has been a friend and mentor ever since. Thank you, Missy.

    Over the past 12 years, I have been involved with the University of Notre Dame’s Monogram Club board of directors (the Monogram Club is comprised of varsity letterwinners). Also, over the past 12 years, I have experienced great change (I wrote my book), great thrills (speaking at ND’s commencement in 2012) and great challenges as well. In short, I have grown professionally, personally and spiritually. And there is no doubt my involvement with the Monogram Club, and my friendships at the University, have guided and supported me. And often times, when I need to talk through something, Dick Nussbaum receives a phone call. Thank you, Dick.

    The Rockne Memorial Society presented me with an award for Courage. After one of my heroes, John McCain, died, I heard this definition of courage: Courage is not the absence of fear in one’s life, it is overcoming your fears to carry on. Each of my guests, my ND family, have given me the courage to overcome my fears and carry on. Go Irish!

    From L to R: Bill and Missy Conboy, Charlotte and Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat and Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)

    THE 2018 ROCKNE MEMORIAL SOCIETY AWARDS From L to R: Bill Mountford & Missy Conboy, Charlotte & Dick Rosenthal, me, Mary Pat & Dick Nussbaum, state trooper Kevin Kubsch, Matt Weldy (Monogram Club executive director)

     

     

     

     

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  • JOHN MCCAIN

    I am pretty sure I have never (knowingly) posted anything political on this site. And I am pretty sure, I never will again. But this weekend our country became slightly-less-American after the passing of John McCain. We lost a great one.

    We knew it was coming. The harsh reality of being familiar with glioblastoma, was knowing the prognosis once his diagnosis was announced. I also read, as everyone did, the family’s statement that he had decided to stop treatment.

    But still, on Saturday night, when my older son texted me, “John McCain died,” my heart sank. My son knew this was important to me; I have spent the past two days explaining to him why.

    For those of us from Arizona, especially those around my age, we grew up with John McCain. He was elected to the House of Representatives when I was nine and has served our state and our country ever since. I remember when he was elected to the senate, a seat vacated by another great Arizona politician, Barry Goldwater. I remember living through the Keating 5, and then teaching U.S. History in Arizona and talking to my students about this remarkable patriot who dedicated his life to the service of our country. His daughter was a student at the high school where I taught, though I don’t know her, and I remember thinking about John McCain through the eyes of his daughter. My heart breaks for his children; we lost a hero, they lost their dad.

    I remember moving to Annapolis 14 years ago, and learning they love him here as much as we love him in Arizona. I started reading more about John McCain and his life at the Academy: how that shaped him and defined his values. As a USNA sponsor mom, I thought, “Could you imagine if your plebe was John McCain?!” He was, and will most likely remain, the only politician whose bumper sticker I put on my car.

    I have never met Senator McCain, but I share his love of Arizona and his love of Annapolis; they are my two homes as well. I understand why he spent the past year in Arizona, and I understand his desire to be buried in Annapolis. I have followed his career with great pride, knowing he hails from my home state. As a history major (and teacher), I know there are few people with his courage, honor and grit.  He served his country until the day he died.

    It will be an honor to welcome him home to Annapolis.

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  • PATIENT EXPERINCE

    A decade ago I met a remarkable woman who ran marketing for a hospital in the midwest. We worked on a project together and have stayed in touch over the years. I always admire women entrepreneurs who confidently move forward with an idea or project and who strive to make a difference in their field. Diane’s field is healthcare. She’s one kind of expert in healthcare, and I am another kind of expert. She thought we should combine our expertise.

    About six years ago, Diane first shared with me the concept of the Patient Experience. So much of what is done at hospitals today is dictated by insurance, finances and legalities. But what about the patient? The idea to train hospital employees on elevating the patient’s experience was simple, yet revolutionary for healthcare.

    I have had six surgeries in three different hospitals: a small (at the time) regional medical center in northern Indiana, a large level one trauma teaching hospital in California, and a small private hospital in La Jolla, CA. Three very different hospitals. And while the medical and clinical care I received was excellent, the compassionate care I received differed greatly.

    Today Diane launched a pilot immersion program to educate medical professionals on the Patient Experience, and invited me to share with them my varied and unique experience. While I share my story often, this was – once again – a different type of presentation, with a different audience, for a different purpose. How great to think that my experiences might help affect change, that might – in turn – positively impact the care someone else receives. I may never know, but it feels good to try. It was an inspiring way to spend this rainy Tuesday morning, with many more to come.

     

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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!
    IMG_2848

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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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