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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Nov 28, 2012 - 8:55:49 AM


DI mom co-creates Christmas book
By Elizabeth Bush
Nov 28, 2012 - 8:52:38 AM

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My Secret Angel and Me
Book Signing with
Illustrator Ashley Adorno

Saturday, December 1
10 am to 12 pm
Wonder Works Mount Pleasant

1 pm to 3 pm
Wonder Works West Ashley



Daniel Island resident Ashley Adorno and her sister-in-law Rachel Hernandez of Maryland say their children are among the biggest fans of their new book, My Secret Angel and Me, a story about the real meaning of Christmas. Pictured with the book are Ayla, Cecilia and Tyler Adorno, along with their cousin, Bella Hernandez.

It was November of 2009. Another Christmas season was just around the corner, but Daniel Island resident Ashley Adorno wasn’t feeling all that inspired about the impending holiday hoopla. One day, while riding in the car, her four year old son, Tyler, asked his mom a question typical of most kids his age.
“He was like, ‘Mommy what presents am I going to get?’” recalled Ashley. “…It was basically like how can I do more good things to get more presents?”
The family had the popular “elf on the shelf” to help kids stay well behaved before Santa’s visit, but Ashley, a devoted Christian, struggled with how to show her kids the true meaning of the holiday. Her son’s question that day prompted what must have been a heaven-sent idea.
“I just closed my eyes for a minute and I just saw this angel. I thought, what if it was an angel instead of an elf. And what if she reported back to God? I just opened my eyes and said ‘that would be so cool!’”
Ashley, an art teacher turned stay-at-home mom, immediately called her sister-in-law, Rachel Hernandez, who lives in Maryland, to share her idea. Rachel, also a mother, was in. Her love of writing, Ashley’s artistic talents, and the pair’s deep faith would prove to be the perfect combination to make their dream into a reality. They decided to write a story using a “tangible” angel to take the reader on a journey in search of the very first Christmas gift. Each book set would include an actual angel doll that could make “appearances” over the course of the holiday season with special messages for the child. Ashley and Rachel would get together on weekends and at special family events to work on the project. 
“We started writing and painting,” said Ashley. “It was kind of like a magical six months of creating!”
“It immediately sparked a fire in me that burns bright to this day!” added Rachel. “The whole process was magical. We both cried as we put each page together. It came together perfectly.”
Ashley and Rachel titled their story My Secret Angel and Me: How the gift of Christmas came to be. Once it was complete, they decided to pursue publishing it on their own, and found an affordable company in China to create the angel based on Ashley’s drawings. With next to no budget, they started relatively small and only ordered 1,000 book sets. The shipment arrived in October of 2011, almost two years after Ashley’s angelic vision, and just in time for the start of the holiday season.
“I couldn’t believe we did it,” said Rachel, a former television news reporter who has written for local newspapers and now has her own blog. “…Then I quickly reminded myself that we didn’t do anything. God did.”
“We just said a prayer and posted it on our personal Facebook pages,” Ashley added. “…That day, people just bought, and bought, and bought! People just loved the concept.”
 Next came another wonderful development. A blogger in Charlotte named the book “the gift of the season.” By December 1, they were sold out. This year, they decided to up the order to 10,000. More big news arrived last week, when Barnes and Noble decided to test sell the book under a pilot program at 13 stores, including three in the Charleston area, with hopes to expand to all locations next year. Ashley and Rachel are just in awe of the book’s success.
“It has blown us away,” Rachel said. “It has been humbling and exciting every step of the way.”
Locally, Wonder Works and Patina Blue are also stocking the gift set. A book signing at Wonder Works in Mount Pleasant (Belle Hall Shopping Center) is scheduled for December 1 from 10 am to 12 pm, and from 1 pm to 3 pm at the store’s West Ashley location.
 “We feel like this is our mission,” said Ashley. “We saw what it did in our homes and we just want other children to have it in their homes, so they will stay more focused on Christ during Christmas.”
The book invites the reader to “climb aboard” the angel’s wings and travel back in time thousands of years to Jesus’ birth. Jesus, his parents, Mary and Joseph, and even Santa are part of the story.
“We try to meet kids where they are with the hope that the focus will be shifted from Santa and onto to God, since God is the boss of all things,” added Rachel. “Our angel teaches that God is bigger than Santa, and God’s gifts are everlasting. We explain that even Santa knows this, and acknowledges that God’s gifts are more meaningful than any gift he has upon his sleigh.”
In addition, Bible verses are woven throughout and illustrated on the book’s vibrant pages to make the story come alive.
“The idea of all the presents they’re going to get is kind of being taken away,” said Ashley, who enthusiastically reports that her three children have completely embraced their new angel. “She’s not here to teach you about that…That you need to be good, so you’ll get more presents. It’s that she watches over you and she was sent here to be our ultimate teacher on how to act. That’s why we want to be good.”
“God created (kids) to be loving and kind,” added Rachel. “His gifts are free and not based on acts, i.e. good behavior. We want each child to know that God always loves them, whether they are naughty or nice!”
Parents can register their child’s angel at the book’s official Angel Registry by visiting the website www.mysecretangelandme.com. In addition, a blog posted by Ashley and Rachel on the site offers daily teachable moments December 1 through December 25 to be used in conjunction with the angel’s “appearances” at home. Parents can also sign up for “Angel Mail” so children can receive year-long messages from their angels.
Ashley and Rachel also hope to create books on other Christian-themed topics, such as heaven, Easter, and angels’ true purpose on earth. They are also working on adding multicultural versions of their original story to reflect various ethnic backgrounds. For now, they are content to know their divinely-inspired efforts are making a positive a difference on how thousands of children view the holiday season.
“I just love to hear those stories (of how it is impacting families),” said Ashley. “That’s why we’re doing it. We’re passionate about it. It’s had this power from day one. It’s had a life of its own. God has his hand on it.”
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