Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for March, 2009

Before each book talk or event I attend, I prepare notes for what I want to say. My husband once asked, “Don’t you just say the same thing each time?” Well, yes…and no. The facts and details are the same; those do not change. But there are different angles from which to tell the story, based on the demographic of the audience: a swim team will hear a more swimming-focused story; a book club might want to discuss the nature of the writing process or the challenges of publishing a book; a church or a school with a religious affiliation might hear a talk that discusses more of my spiritual journey.

The last topic is up for debate before each talk: how much of my spiritual journey do I share, based on my audience? I actually had one man (one whom I would consider to be faith-filled) approach me after a talk at a Catholic high school and say to me, “I’d love for you to come speak to my company. Just clear out some of the God talk, focus on the team aspect, and it will be great.” I can appreciate what he was saying, because no two persons’ faiths are the same, and I do not want to alienate an audience. I also believe that our faith is very personal.

When I do share it, I talk about being raised a “religious mutt”: our family “church hopped” and I was exposed to several communities of all denominations: Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists; I graduated from a Catholic high school and college. I also attended a grade school that had many families of the Jewish faith; families who welcomed me into their homes during Hanukkah and Passover, friends who shared their faith with me.

I was not a Catholic when I went to Notre Dame; however, the Catholic Church embraced me nonetheless. Do you see a pattern here? Throughout my life I have been welcomed in churches and faiths of all denominations. And that has directly impacted my faith today. It is not necessarily rooted in doctrine, but in a welcoming place of a community – a prayerful community – that has come together to celebrate something greater than the individuals.

Last week I attended a book club, of which I only personally knew one member, but I shared my faith journey nonetheless. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am always interested to see what “new” question or comment will arise. That night it was about Faith. But not mine.

There was a young Jewish mom who admitted that she was hesitant to read a book with a subtitle that read, “Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph.” Yet, it was her book club’s selection. How thrilled I am she read it – and how thrilled I was to hear her feedback. It was inspiring to hear that this woman felt better about her own faith, while reading about mine. It confirmed her own beliefs in being involved in the prayerful community of her choice.

My journey of faith has been welcomed into the lives of many different faiths. And that – to me – is inspiring.

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    I had a different topic in mind for this post, but that one will have to wait. Right now, I’ve got skiing on my mind. I have some friends who are currently on Spring Break, and posting status updates on Facebook about their fun on the slopes. I am enjoying the snowy weather vicariously through them. I had another friend send an e-mail to let me know that he has begun to plan a ski trip to Utah next February, in hopes that we will join them.

    I took my two young boys skiing for the first time last month and I had visions of the years to come: spending time as a family enjoying the snow. Perhaps it is because the sport is similar to swimming. Snow is frozen water (I know that’s a stretch); but more so because, as with swimming, when you ski you are alone in your own mind. Going down a run, it’s just you, your skis and the snow. But yet, the companionship of skiing – as with swimming – is what makes the sport so enjoyable.

    Two days ago I received an e-mail from a woman who was at one of my book talks a few weeks ago. She had just read What Though the Odds, and was writing because a close friend of her husband’s was in a skiing accident over the weekend. He broke his back (same level as mine). He was in surgery. He was paralyzed, yet had reported some feeling. The similarities are numerous – and hopeful. But yet my heart aches for this family – and for the family of Natasha Richardson, whose death from a skiing injury I just learned about on CNN.  

    A tragedy is something that changes your life forever. It is more than a newscast. It is more than a sad e-mail about an accident. It alters your life, and you can never go back. It changes you. It changed me. Yet, I am happy with the changes. In the midst of your tragedy it is hard to see the goodness – but it is there. It is hard to count your blessings, but they are there as well. It is easy to look for blame; it is easy to lay blame. But that will only prevent you from seeing the goodness. Will the tragedy change you and make you a more fearful person? Or will you let the goodness change you.

    I like to think I chose the latter. I can’t be fearful; I love to ski.

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    At each book talk/event/signing/club I attend, there are many similar themes and questions that arise each time. The relationship with my mom. The dynamics of my family. The strength of the Notre Dame family. The humor in my rods. I welcome these questions, and enjoy answering them because they are the heart of my story.

    What I find most interesting, however, are the new comments or questions that I have not heard. And there is at least one “new” question each time I share my story. As an author, it is fascinating to get this insight from a reader, to learn what has touched them or in what ways their lives have been affected. Whether it is a major part of the story, or just a few words that speak to them, each person has something to which they can relate – and often someone with whom they can empathize.

    Another question I am often asked is whether or not it is hard to share my story repeatedly. When first asked, I surprised myself when I replied, “No.”

    This has been on my mind as I received a letter in the mail this week from a former student of mine who I taught in the late-90s, and who wrote to share her feelings about the book. She ended with, “I remember you telling me that you sometimes get tired of telling your story; but, I hope you know how valuable it is for people to read.”

    In many ways, this is why I wrote the book, and I am thankful that it is no longer difficult for me to share the story. Perhaps it is because it was my choice to do so. I have finally taken ownership over what happened to me – to us as a team and a family – and I now control it. For years, the accident controlled my life, and not necessarily in a positive way. I now feel as though I am in control and using my experience in a positive way. How lucky for me to have the opportunity to do that, how healing, and how easy. How could it be hard to share hope? To Share the Inspiration…

    On a different note, I have uploaded more pictures from some of my book events this winter. I hope you enjoy them!

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