The ornaments that Theresa’s three children last placed on a Christmas tree in 1997 remain part of her Christmas tradition. So do the ornaments from a trip to Walt Disney World in the summer of 1998.
Sean, 12, Jarod, 6, and Brandi, 3, never saw those Disney ornaments. Theresa’s recently divorced husband killed the three children in their Jasper, Ind., home and then took his own life.
After almost 20 years of dealing with that day, Theresa recently published her third book. “Ornaments of Love” is a children’s Christmas book. It is available online and at Barnes & Noble. She will sign copies of her book during a 2-5 p.m. story time on Saturday, Dec. 9, at Barnes & Noble at Jefferson Pointe.
Theresa — her name is now Theresa James — and her husband moved to the Fort Wayne area from Chicago this summer.
James dedicated “Ornaments of Love” to Sean, her eldest.
“It is about creating a family tradition and sharing stories and memories each time you decorate the tree, as a parent making or buying special things for your child and then sharing those stories through the generations,” she said.
Sean understood that.
“He was older and he had many more memories than the smaller kids,” she said.
So Sean’s ornaments go back on the tree each Christmas, as do Jarod’s and Brandi’s.
“I have all the ones that they made for me through school projects that we hang on the tree every year,” the author said. “I still have Sean’s Larry Bird ornament that is mentioned in the book, and the ones that we got through Walt Disney that my children never received. But the book continues on. In the book, my son marries and has children of his own, so it was very touching to see how the illustrator aged him in the book.”
James also wrote the children’s book “I Love and Like You!” which was released in June.
“I wanted to write a children’s book to honor the lives of my children and share stories of my life’s lessons that I was teaching my children,” she said. “[The book] teaches the lesson that you don’t always have to like behavior or like attitudes but you always love people, and it’s dedicated to my middle son, Jarod, who understood the difference. It was very important for him to say ‘I love and like you, Mom’ before bed every night.”
“I still want to dedicate a book to my daughter,” she said, without detail.
James released her first book this year, after reading, editing and building on journals that she began in 1998. “Healing Tears” was released in February.
All three books are available online, and all will be available at her book signing. The focus, though, is on her recent Christmas book.
“I wrote the [first] book then as part of my healing,” she said. “So I journaled for a year from the divorce and then I wrote for a year, so the bulk of the book was finished by the end of 1999. I chose not to publish it then, but it was very therapeutic for me to write it then and have to relive it all.”
In the summer of 2016, she decided it was time to share her story through a book.
“I always wanted to publish it, but it just felt like the right time,” she said. “So I finally opened the book, edited the book and had to add additional chapters because it was missing 17 years of what I had been doing.”
Someone referred her to Balboa Press, and she worked on the book from September until it was published in February.
She has been assured that her words have had the intended effect. In 1999 she had just begun journaling and preparing her story when she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The show’s producers later forwarded many comments on how others said her words had helped them.
“But now with social media I receive so much positive feedback and several people have shared stories with me in private messages or emails on how it has helped them deal with their own life crisis,” she said.
“Sadly, I didn’t publish it back then because it was such a rare occurrence; it was an unheard of thing,” she said. “And the sad part is that it’s not so rare now and I feel like it could benefit so many more people now, and that’s one of the reasons I did publish it. If it gives anyone inspiration and hope moving forward that makes me know I have helped someone else.”
She hopes her latest children’s book will inspire emotions, too.
“One thing that gives me great joy is to think of parents and grandparents holding their children and grandchildren in their laps and reading my stories to them,” she said. “In the summer I got to witness one of my friends reading that book and using feeling and emotion, and it was very rewarding to show that.”
Shop for James’ books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or BalboaPress.com. Read more about the books and her story at theresajames-author.com.