Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for February, 2013


Oh, how I love to ski!

I did not learn to ski as a young child, although my family took a few ski trips when I was in grade school. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I knew skiing would be a life-long love.

And oh how I loved it! (Maybe, as a swimmer, because the snow is frozen water?) My friends taught me to ski (nothing like a little peer pressure to take you down a run for which you aren’t quite ready…) and our high school ski trips were an experience unto themselves (16 hours on a bus through the Rocky Mountains to Telluride or Purgatory, oh my!) But the rush and the thrill of skiing down the mountain was liberating, exhilarating…all those feelings that can’t quite be put into words, until you experience it on the slopes.

And then I went to college…and lots changed. And I didn’t ski for a long time. I could, once I had healed, but I was scared. So much of what I loved about skiing was the sense of powerlessness, of being out of control heading down the slopes. Part of this was being silly and 16, but at 20 or 22 or 25, I was afraid to be out of control – and I was afraid to ski, as sad as that was to lose an activity I loved.

But I loved it and I wanted my children to love it – and to not be afraid of it. So a few years ago, I taught them how to ski. Not on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains (although hopefully we’ll make it out there some day), but on the hills of Pennsylvania, a much more manageable trip. I taught them to ski, I taught them to turn and I taught them to be cautious. But they are also young, adventurous boys, and the more they skied, the better they got.

This month we went on an overnight ski trip with some friends. Once again, peer pressure set in and both my boys (ages 9 and 11) skied down black diamond runs (although unlike their mom 25 years ago, they were armed with careful turns and ski helmets). And so did I. For the first time in over 20 years, I skied unafraid, although much more in control (a lesson from my sons, perhaps). I didn’t realize how much I had missed this, how much I needed this and how freeing it would be, until I realized how emotional it was to ski these slopes.

Even 20+ years later, I am still on this journey to figure out who I am and what my life is and has become. This time I found it on the hills of Pennsylvania.

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    Last week I had the privilege to serve as the afternoon keynote speaker at a company’s annual meeting. The company, Case Design/Remodeling, thought outside the box and invited me into their company culture for the afternoon. In the months and days leading up to this talk, when I told friends and acquaintances where I was speaking, most gave me a funny look as if to say, “You’re speaking at a home design and remodeling company meeting? What does your story have to do with that?”

    My answer was always the same: you never know who needs to hear what I have to say.

    I truly believe this. I know, going into each talk, that there will be someone in the audience who – for one reason or another – needs to hear what I have to share. It may be more on a personal level than a professional level; but for most of us to do our jobs well, we must be settled and at a place of satisfaction in all areas of our lives.

    This talk proved no different. I didn’t know who I would reach, but I knew I would reach someone. And the answer followed me out of the meeting.

    The morning speaker left after the morning session to attend a lunch meeting. He didn’t plan on returning, as he was an invited speaker – like myself – and not a meeting attendee. However, when his lunch meeting cancelled, he felt called back to the conference center – not sure why. As he reentered the meeting, I was about three-quarters of the way through my talk. At the end, where I talk about gifts: how we all have gifts and we need to share our gifts. I am not really sure exactly what I said, because I don’t speak from notes; I speak off-the-cuff. So, as always, my words that afternoon came from the heart…straight to the other speaker’s heart.

    About 30 minutes after my presentation, as I was leaving the building, this other speaker followed me out. He shared with me how meaningful my words were; how he had been contemplating following his heart and using his gifts, which weren’t necessarily the ones he was using (quite successfully, I might add) in his current job. He truly believed that God sent him back to the meeting to speak to him, through me.

    How cool is that?

    This may be a very large and powerful example of how our words can affect others’ lives, but keep in mind that you never know who may need to hear what you say; and you never know how your words can impact someone’s life. Choose them carefully. Choose them lovingly. Choose them from the heart.

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    The following is a brief excerpt from my book, which is also on the STORY page of this site:

    Although it is Super Bowl Sunday, there is nothing super about it. Next to swimming, I love football, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t care about the game. I don’t know who is playing, but it is a blowout. And it’s just a game. To millions of fans it is everything on this day; but to me, today, it means nothing.

    I have thought about this passage several times recently; the first time because it was brought to my attention, and then because of a personal situation.

    Two weeks ago, I attended a book club where my book was the month’s selection. I love book clubs; I love the opportunity to sit down with a group of (usually) women to discuss what they took from my story. Just as the most meaningful part of my talks and presentations are the after-discussions where members of the audience approach me to share part of their lives, a book club is an entire evening of this intimate exchange. It is also fascinating to learn what passages, or parts of my story, they most connected.

    At this book club was a Washington Redskins fan (not hard to find in Annapolis) whose first connection to my story was the above Super Bowl passage: “I was reading the part about the Super Bowl and I thought, “YES! This is 1992 – she’s going to show my Redskins some love! But then you wrote something like, ‘to me it means nothing.’”

    Yes, it meant nothing. On that particular day in my life, I had just been told I would never walk. The Super Bowl seemed meaningless during this time of crisis.

    And yet, over the past two weeks I have also learned that the Super Bowl doesn’t always have to be meaningless for those who are in a time of crisis. That sometimes, even though it’s just a game, we need a respite from ourselves, from our lives and from our crisis.

    We are Ravens fans. The state of Maryland is purple this weekend. The inside of our house is decorated with purple Christmas lights and we look forward to watching the game with friends tonight. But we also have dear friends, dear Ravens fans, whose family is in crisis right now. A family for whom this Super Bowl is probably as meaningless as the ’92 Super Bowl was to me. And yet it’s not. It is a respite from the fear they face. It is a quick journey to hope and celebration. It is a weekend to celebrate life and the fight. That is the way they have chosen to see it. That is their choice – and I celebrate it, and them. They display a wisdom and a grace that I did not have at age 18, and I honor them for it.

    Today’s Super Bowl will still be meaningless to some, but I have a new perspective on what it can be.

    (And yes, we are fully aware of the fact that both the Ravens AND Notre Dame went to their respective championship games in the same year is amazing!)

    Go Ravens!

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