Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story

Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story

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Overview

Before she was mother to global superstar Demi Lovato, she was just Dianna Hart.

Dianna tells her story from the very beginning in this complete and genuinely affecting memoir.

She had big plans of becoming a country music star, but her life went in a different direction than her dreams. She developed an eating disorder early in life to gain a sense of control in her strict upbringing. As she continued to struggle with body image and her obsession with being perfect her entire adult life, she was also met with other difficult situations. Her husband and father of her two eldest daughters, Dallas and Demi, had his own troubles that effected the entire family. She coped with alcohol and pills, forming a long-lasting addiction.

She's had terrible lows but also some great highs as she watched her daughters break out in Hollywood to become strong, empowered young women.

As a mother caring for daughters with addictions while continuing to battle her own, Dianna offers a unique perspective. And as a family, they have survived everything life has thrown at them and come away from it stronger than ever.

Dianna tells her story of living through and surviving adversity—with tremendous strength, love and faith.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250143334
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 309,931
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Dianna De La Garza, born and raised in Texas, is a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and country music recording artist who opened for music greats like George Strait, Reba McEntire, and Hank Williams, Jr. As mother of three daughters who were interested in show business, De La Garza also served as pep coach, adviser, and manager to her children. Her youngest, Madison De La Garza, was a series regular on Desperate Housewives, playing the role of Eva Longoria’s daughter. Middle daughter, Demi Lovato, is a multiplatinum-recording artist and former Disney actress, best known for appearing in Camp Rock, Princess Protection Program, and Sonny With A Chance. Oldest daughter, Dallas Lovato, is currently an acting coach in the Los Angeles area and a voice actress. In addition to being a mom and author, De La Garza is also a well-known speaker who conducts parent seminars around the country about the perks and pitfalls of helping children pursue Hollywood careers.

Vickie McIntyre, a Pennsylvania native now living in Los Angeles, was a high school English teacher for many years at the Grier School, a private boarding school for girls, before becoming a freelance writer. Although this is her first book, she formerly was a contributing writer for several regional magazines about life in Central Pennsylvania, including Town & Gown, State College Magazine, and Pawsitively Pets.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"From an early age, I wanted more ... I wanted to be a star!"

As far back as I can remember, music surrounded my family like air, filling our home, our car, and our hearts.

"Stand up here," Daddy said one Sunday long ago, lifting me with his strong hands and placing me on a piano bench that was next to the pulpit at the Union Bower Assembly of God Church in Irving, Texas. "Steady yourself," he whispered before walking away.

It was 1965, and I was only three years old. Singing solo had been Daddy's idea. I was tiny, even for my age — the size of an insect compared to the grown-ups sitting in the rows and rows of pews in front of me — and the crowd looked immense to me. Although eager to please everyone, I suddenly wasn't sure I remembered all the words to the song Daddy had patiently taught me. My legs wobbled as my eyes blinked in the bright lights. Nervously, I slid my hands across the folds of my pale-blue dress, feeling the small, white bumps sprouting from the dotted-swiss fabric. When that didn't calm me, I shook my head, causing scarlet wisps of my pixie haircut to stick to my cheeks. After that, there was nothing more to do except stare into the eyes of the men and women in front of me. And that's when the magic happened.

Maybe it was their smiles. Maybe it was the eagerness in their eyes. But the longer we looked at one another, the more I enjoyed the attention. At the sound of the piano, I took a deep breath and began to sing. Don't ask me the name of the Gospel song or how I left the altar that day — those details are buried under time. What I do remember, quite vividly, is the shower of praise that followed. "Amen," shouted one woman. "Praise God," said another. "Hallelujah!" boomed a group of men from the back of the church. But it was the echo of applause swirling around me that sparked a fire in my belly. As the warmth of that flame spread upward, my sense of self grew taller and stronger, and from that day forward, I never doubted that singing was my God-given gift. And I never doubted that I would become a star. In my childhood imagination, I saw that piano bench grow and grow until it became a stage in front of thousands. The crowd's adoration was like manna from heaven and every crumb reinforced my destiny, which, in my optimism, meant I was going to be a singing sensation with fans around the globe.

I left no detail to chance. Our family's motto — "Practice makes perfect" — was put to good use. Every afternoon, I disappeared into my bedroom and stood in front of the full-length mirror, wrapping my little fingers around a hairbrush and belting out tunes until I forgot where I was. I loved watching myself, loved dreaming about the future. Although Gospel was the main soundtrack to our lives, popular music was there, too, and radio artists, such as Bobby Sherman and Tony Orlando, inspired me to think about hearing my own songs over the airways someday. My audiences may have been imaginary, but my ambitions were as real as the freckles on my face.

A few months after my church debut, my momma, Sue Dianne Emmons, and I were sitting on the porch as we listened to the radio wedged between us. Pots and pans — my collection of toys that day — were scattered around me, but my sole focus was on the lid to a large pot. As I fidgeted this way and that, trying to nestle myself into the shiny piece of metal, I stared at my mother as she put on her makeup.

Momma was young and naturally beautiful. That day, especially, she was very Annette Funicello–looking with her long, dark hair; stylish pedal pushers; button-up shirt; and white flats. Makeup made her glow like sunshine.

"Doesn't matter what you're wearing," she instructed. "You've got to make sure your hair and makeup are done."

Nodding solemnly, I stared at her intently. Then I studied how she brushed her hair with slow, even strokes and how, with a flick of her wrist, she could turn the ends up. How a bit of mascara could turn her eyelashes dark as charcoal. And how her lips turned a frosty pink with something that resembled a giant crayon. "It's called putting on your face," she told me. When she finished, Momma held up a small mirror, smiling at her handiwork. Before looking away, she caught my reflection, making her smile grow even wider. In that instant, an energy passed between us that made my skin tingle. Deliriously happy, I began to spin on the lid beneath me like a human top. Pushing harder and harder, I spun faster and faster, causing rays of sunlight to dance around me. Just as my momentum reached a crescendo, the number-one hit "Lil' Red Riding Hood" started to play.

Momma sang along. "Hey there Little Red Riding Hood, You sure are looking good," she trilled, cocking her head from side to side. "You're everything that a big bad wolf could want." Then looking right at me, her eyes bright with joy, she unleashed a comical howl, "Owoooo." Like magic, her voice, the song, and our happiness became an intimate conversation. You see, I knew this Little Red Riding Hood she was singing about, and I also knew about that big, bad wolf. "I mean baaaa. Baaa," she crooned, looking more beautiful with every note. Time slowed to a trickle as love devoured me.

As I grew older, whenever Elvis came on the radio or television, Momma would pause what she was doing and launch into her legendary Elvis experiences. No matter how many times I had heard the stories before, she'd retell them, always sounding a bit giddy. "Oohh, now there's a boy who loves his momma," she'd start, quickly adding, "Do you know I met him in my teens?"

Now I had heard these stories again and again, so, of course, I knew. In fact, I knew most of the details, such as how she had lived with her older sisters in Tennessee for a time in a house not far from Graceland, how Elvis was a good person because he started out in Gospel music, and how he was a fun-loving character who liked to play practical jokes. But I never said a word. How could I steal my momma's joy in reliving those experiences one more time?

"We'd wander down to Graceland and flirt with the security guards," she'd brag, "and eventually, they'd let us in." After she delivered this little tidbit, Momma's face always beamed like a schoolgirl who'd just found out she was voted prom queen. It made me wonder if living so close to "The King" had been a bit like handing my mother a diamond ring and telling her not to wear it. "That Priscilla, though," she'd add with attitude, "always got angry when we made too much noise. She'd give us a stern talking-to from her balcony, though we never paid much attention."

Elvis, who rented out the Memphian Theater to screen his own movies, often invited a group of friends to come along. My mother, friends with a friend who had been invited, always jumped at the opportunity to tag along. "Every time," she'd laugh, "he'd insist that everyone sit behind him so as not to obstruct his view." I got the feeling Momma was just fine with his request.

But popular music never dominated the airwaves at our house, mostly because of my father, Perry Hart. With his wavy, sandy-brown hair and bluish-gray eyes, Daddy may have looked like a movie star, but his heart lusted after God. Although he had a good-paying job at Central Freight Lines in Irving, it was his work with the church that he valued the most. As an ordained Pentecostal minister, he felt his true calling was to serve God. He fulfilled that duty by serving as the youth minister at Union Bower Church and leading praise and worship music with my mother. When Daddy finally invited me to sing along, it was like destiny tapping me on the shoulder.

CHAPTER 2

"Faith was instilled in me as a young child."

To say our home was on fire for the Lord would be an understatement. There's nothing quite like a Pentecostal household where every day is treated like a Sunday and where faith, fire, and brimstone burn like an eternal flame. Talking about God, as well as the devil, filled our days.

"Everyone ready?" Daddy implored as we scrambled out of the house and headed to church. Seated behind the wheel, Daddy always started whistling. His happiness bounced off us the same way sunlight did from his gold wedding ring, making the entire car glow with heavenly light. Momma, always silent but smiling, clutched her favorite handbag, while I, alone in the back seat, hummed and stared at my shiny, patent leather shoes. We perfected the drill three times a week — twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday evenings.

Every church service was a feast for the senses. There was singing and shouting, crying and laughing, praying and praising, and often, all at once! Wide-eyed and spellbound, I sat amid the great drama — usually in the front row — watching the preacher in his black suit as he marched back and forth behind the pulpit, shouting about heaven and hell. Without fail, somewhere in his delivery, he'd raise his Bible to the sky in one hand and pound the podium with the other. I couldn't take my eyes off of him.

"All sinners," he'd cry, his voice so shrill it sent ripples of fear down my spine, "will be thrown into a lake of fire — FOR ALL ETERNITY!" Louder and louder he grew until I could barely stand it. When he started slinging sweat and spraying spittle like a madman, I'd hold my breath and close my eyes, hoping to stay dry. "Repent," he'd shout, a final crescendo that always ushered in a jubilant chorus of "Hallelujah" and "Amen." Then, his voice softening, he'd plead for everyone to accept Jesus and be saved. That was my cue to relax because I knew the music would soon return. When it did, I sang my lungs out.

* * *

Sometimes, in late spring or early summer, an entire week was devoted to worship. That's when we'd eat an early dinner and head out into the country to attend "brush-arbor" revivals. Although most children would balk at the idea today, I loved them because music was such an important component of the services. I remember how Momma, Daddy, and I would scan the fields from our car, hoping to spy the telltale signs that we had reached our destination: a wooden, tentlike structure with open sides and a roof piled high with dried grass and vines (thus the "brush-arbor" name). "There it is," one of us would shout, pointing to the wooden cross rising from the roof of the temporary shelter. Then we'd drive across the patch of grass, jostled by the bumpy earth, and walk hand in hand to find our seats.

There were no fancy chairs, no electricity. Paper fans and folding chairs were the norm. Yet, listening to those guitars strumming and voices rising in song, we eventually forgot about the Texas heat as we rode a wave of glory onto heaven's shores. It was pure bliss. And if church on Sunday mornings seemed loud, revivals were like Pentecostal churches on steroids! Some folks even took to dancing as they whooped and hollered. When it was time for testimony, one by one, each person would stand and share what the Lord had done for them that day. Some stories made me smile; some made me quiver in disbelief. And some made me as scared as a sinner in a cyclone. Regardless, it all pointed to one undeniable truth: God is great.

Every service ended with an altar call. "While every head is bowed and eyes are closed," our pastor urged, "raise your hand if you'd like to accept Jesus as your personal savior." Scared as I was of God's wrath, I never could resist peeking from at least one eye to see who raised their hand. In time, brush-arbor revivals would slowly become a relic of the past, but I've always cherished the memories of those nights when our faith seemed so strong and unshakable.

Although the Pentecostal world may seem strange, even frightening, to some, it was normal for me. Church was the neighborhood where we spent most of our days. I knew the people around me. I cherished their songs. And I was grateful for their love. It was there, in their midst, that I learned about prayer and scripture, as well as typical teenage things, such as how to pass notes to my girlfriends and how to flirt with boys. The rituals and faith of these people became my own, and the process of adopting their ways was as natural as taking bread from a basket being passed around the table. At least for a while.

By 1967, Momma, Daddy, and I had been leading the praise and worship services for nearly two years, faithfully standing together on the red velvet carpet at the front of the church. It was like being on stage, and I adored every minute of the attention. I thought of it as my training to become a star, but when my baby brother, Joey, arrived in August, the spotlight was no longer on me. A few weeks later, just as we started adjusting to being a family of four, Daddy crashed his motorcycle, and my world really turned upside down.

Daddy, scraped and bruised, hurt his back in the accident and could no longer work at the shipping company. Without a job or paycheck, our world became untethered. In a matter of weeks, the layers of our lives started to shed like dead skin. Pain, heartache, and sadness saturated our days. We lost our home. We sold our belongings. And we waved good-bye to the comfortable life we had known. Our car, packed with the few possessions that remained, would transport us into another existence.

"We're as poor as church mice," Momma sighed as we drove away. With my five-year-old face pressed against the back window, I watched as rows of houses flew by and sidewalks slowly gave way to pastures. Herds of cattle replaced people, and streetlamps were exchanged for stars. Eventually, we disembarked in a town calledDeSoto, in north Texas, that seemed as far away from our old neighborhood as the moon — and just as uninhabited.

But good Pentecostals never give up; instead, they get on their knees. "Dear Jesus," Momma pleaded, "we need food ... we need healing ... we need direction." The words poured out of her like tears. Daddy, still recuperating, stormed heaven as well, though his tone was more confident, more sure. "Amen," he boomed after every request, as though answers had already arrived. I watched and waited for their prayers to be answered. Through it all, we never stopped singing. And I never stopped dreaming.

No matter how bad things got, I could always escape to my imagination and drape myself in the pleasures of my future stardom. There, in my mind, I saw myself strutting on stage in fashionable clothes, reaching out to shake the hands of adoring fans, and belting out tunes to a captive audience. It was how I kept my dream alive, and with each vivid detail, I empowered myself to believe that my ambitions were not only attainable but that they were God's will for my life. My belly, though, still grumbled from hunger.

During one rough patch, we prayed repeatedly for food because there wasn't any money to buy groceries. "Heavenly Father, you know our needs," Momma prayed. While waiting for answers, we quoted scripture. Philippians 4:19 was a favorite: "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." So, too, was Psalms 23:1: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." In my imagination, I prepared for God's riches. I tasted turkey and ham in my sleep and inhaled the delight of ripe strawberries when I awoke. If God were generous — and I fully expected him to be — I wanted nothing less than the rich, chocolate cake smothered in buttercream icing that I saw in my dreams. Every prayer made my mouth water.

One afternoon a neighbor knocked on our door. Anticipating our miracle, we ran to see our bounty. "Grew them myself," the woman proclaimed, handing my mother a box. "Bless you. Bless you," my mother gushed. One peek and I nearly fainted. Her blessing was nothing more than a dozen white turnips! To make matters worse, the woman reappeared, week after week, with another batch. And night after night, I'd struggle to swallow her abundance. We ate so many turnips that year, they came out our ears! Yes, I'll forever bless the woman, sent by God, who saved us from going hungry, but to this day if I smell a turnip, I get sick to my stomach. There's only one word to describe a turnip — and that's nasty. (Even Momma agrees with me on that one!)

Through it all, we never grew tired of thanking God for our music. It was, and would remain, the bright, shiny lining of our lives for many years to come. Without it, I shudder to think what would have become of us. One of the most profound lessons my parents taught me through those years was the blessing of singing through our tears. Every note of melody held the power of hope, joy, and prayer. It was our lifeline, and we held on with both hands, especially when our family's ship started sailing toward new horizons.

Barely settled in DeSoto, our family suddenly left for Colorado, where Daddy had been offered a ministry job. I started first grade there, but for reasons I never knew, we packed up the car and moved back to north Texas a short time later, hovering for a bit in the town of Blossom, where some of Daddy's kin lived. The Campbell Soup factory was about ten miles away, and Daddy quickly got hired. But that wasn't enough to keep us settled. By 1969, as I was entering second grade, we were on the move again. This time it was seven miles down the road to Detroit. What exactly was my father looking for? I wondered.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Falling with Wings"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Dianna De La Garza.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Epigraph,
Foreword from Demi Lovato,
Prologue,
Beginnings,
The Colleyville Years,
The Hollywood Years,
Afterword,
Resources,
Acknowledgments,
About the Authors,
Copyright,

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