I’ve been a child care provider for over twenty years helping to raise many different types of children. I began a child care career to help my daughter who needed assistance with social and emotional skills. But, I stayed in a child care career because I love to empower children. About five years ago, I started authoring children’s books. This came naturally to me as I have told stories to the children throughout my career. Even though the details of publishing and marketing books was much harder to navigate than I thought, I fell in love with writing and creating books. I’ve published seven titles to date. Each book brought me closer to understanding what I really wanted.
Deep in my heart, I knew these books were preparing me for a very important book, The Angel Opens Her Eyes; the story of our family’s journey in overcoming Autism. I began to really consider this massive and very personal project about two years ago, but there were so many unanswered questions. Do I contact a publisher or self-publish? What will the cover art be like and who can do this for me? Can I handle the emotional work required to remember our past, while helping others see a possible path for their loved ones on the Spectrum? And, the most important question, will my daughter be in agreement with this work? She and I discussed it at great length and after much consideration, we agreed to begin this task together. You see, there are many occurrences she is unaware of and I don’t want her to be upset by discovering them in the book. Plus, the story of our lives will be told exposing all our personal thoughts and dreams. And, I wondered if the book would be offensive to anyone or of interest?
In an effort to find direction, I reached out to a group in Los Angeles that I followed for a while on the internet. I had taken some of their online classes, and felt they were trustworthy. They also helped authors with many of these issues. They encouraged me to attend their event in L.A. October, 2019. Wow, I’m a home body remember? I’ve been home with the children for twenty years and I do not travel much, so flying to L.A., alone, was like going to the moon! But, I knew this was important so I decided to go and see if they were authentic! And, yes, they are. Also, I wanted to see if they had an interest in The Angel Opens Her Eyes. And, yes, they certainly do! Over one hundred presenters were at the event and The Angel was given a lot of attention. I knew I was in the right place at the right time. They gave me a small list of things to do and I flew home. Whew, what an experience!
Once back home in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, it was hard to get settled. So many things swarming in my mind especially who was going to be my charity partner. I hadn’t thought about this aspect of the project and frankly, I was stumped. So, my husband and I went to camp at Caledonia State Park to relax for the weekend. I tried not to think about work at camp, but this time, The Angel Opens Her Eyes was all I could think about. I kept thinking about who was going to be my charitable partner. This was an important decision as any association with other organizations directly reflects the project. I was used to flying solo in my child care and with my previous book projects. But, the L.A. group insisted on the selection of a partner, and I was going to listen to them. For me personally, the partner had to be someone who worked with children in need, was local to our community and understood what this project would be all about. And, I wanted someone I could really help. Someone who needed funding and would benefit from being in the spotlight. As we sat around the fire pit at camp, Terry, my husband, could see I was unsettled. So, we decided to drive around a local reservoir that has a lovely lake and mountain view. As we traveled the gravel road, we passed a few cars and enjoyed the thick forest, small streams and the cool breeze of the lake. Our hope was to see some deer or perhaps, a hawk. This area is not well known so it is extremely quiet and peaceful. I let my mind wander and decided to simply ‘let it go.’ I’ll wait for the answer about my charitable partner.
Suddenly, we see a magnificent site! A large group of riders on horseback descending from the mountain. It looked like something out of a movie! We couldn’t believe what we were seeing so, Terry immediately pulled the car over and we waited for them to approach us. We were thrilled with their unexpected presence. Perhaps, twenty riders in all. Amazing! They introduced themselves as the South Mountain Riding Club. With their permission, I snapped a few photos asking them about their group. The team leader explained they were on a charity ride for Reins of Rhythm, a group that assists children in need, some with Autism. I felt so moved that tears streamed down my face. At that moment, I realized these riders were bringing me a message; I was being told about a possible charitable partner! Of course! Therapy for children with Autism. My daughter had taken horseback riding therapy years ago. It was an incredible help to her. I had just forgotten. Suddenly, I felt so blessed to meet this group. They were such a spectacular surprise, with such a noble mission and even though I hadn’t heard about Reins of Rhythm until that day, I knew I was going to contact them as soon as we returned from camp. And, I felt in my heart this was going to be my charity partner.
Monday morning, I emailed Reins of Rhythm, sending some pictures and explaining my feelings when the riders came out of the mountain. Ruth Gunnett reached out to me right away and I scheduled a time to meet her and see the facility. When I visited to the farm, I found what I was looking for: children delighted to be on horseback, a program that had wonderful benefits for the participants and hardworking, honest, dedicated local people working to help children in need. And, Ruth understood about The Angel Opens Her Eyes project and how important this work is to me personally, and to our community. We both became extremely excited for our partnership and are developing strategies to grow our impact on the children of our community while developing a wonderful friendship as well. I’m grateful for those riders on horseback descending from the mountain. They truly brought me a wonderful message that day that turned into a beautiful partnership.
The Angel Opens Her Eyes is expected to be available fall/winter 2020.
Other books by Sue James are available at Amazon.com