Charming Charm Bracelets

For her 21st birthday last month, I bought my daughter a charm bracelet.  It’s made of sterling silver and has links which open to receive her charms.  I picked out several charms for her, representing things that she loves and of course, I included a “21” charm to mark her milestone birthday.

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People have been wearing charms or pendants, for hundreds, even thousands of years.  In earlier times, charms were worn for protection from evil spirits and from bad luck.

Early Christians in Rome wore small charms in the shape of a fish called “ichthys” (the Greek word for fish, also sometimes spelled “ichthus”) to let other Christians know of their religious leanings during the days when it was dangerous to be a Christian.  Over time, the role of charms changed from being a means of warding off evil and communication, to one of fashion and aesthetics.

Queen Victoria of England had a fascination for jewelry and charms and was known for wearing charm bracelets and making them an enormously popular fashion item during her reign from 1837 to 1901.  In addition to loving to wear charm bracelets, Queen Victoria was known for giving them as gifts.  When her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died, she made “mourning” charms popular.  These charms held a miniature picture of the deceased or a lock of their hair.

Tiffany & Co introduced their first charm bracelet in 1889 at the Paris Exposition World’s Fair.  It was a silver link bracelet with a single heart pendent and was a huge hit.  That same style bracelet is still sold by Tiffany & Co today for $295.

In the 20th Century, it became customary to give charm bracelets to girls before the age of puberty and then to add a new charm each year.   The 1950’s and 1960’s were the golden years for charm bracelets.  Many movie stars and politician’s wives, including Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, wore charm bracelets and made them popular with the masses.

For Christmas in 1970 when I was 10 years old, I received a charm bracelet from my grandmother.  It was made of sterling silver and had five charms already on it that she had chosen for me.


There was a bicycle charm representing the new bike I had just gotten for my birthday that year, an August (Peridot) birthstone charm, a Leo the Lion Courage charm, a Christmas tree charm, and a charm with a dime in it.  This is funny now, but at the time, pay phone calls cost a dime.  My grandmother told me I would always have a dime in the event that I didn’t have any money and needed to make a phone call.  How times do change.

I loved my charm bracelet and wore it often.  Over the years, I added many other charms to those original five.  There are birthday charms from when I turned 13 and became a teenager, and another given to me on my 21st birthday.  There’s a mustard seed charm representing my faith with the bible verse from Matthew 17:20 on the back.  A Disney castle charm was bought during my first visit to Disney World at 16 when I was on a mission trip to Haiti.

One of my favorite charms is the Quill and Scroll Honor Society Journalism charm I received for writing for my high school newsmagazine.  I earned that one writing my stories on a manual typewriter in the journalism room at school.  Other favorites are my Purdue charm from my college years, and a Fort Lauderdale charm acquired during one crazy spring break with all my friends from my dorm.

After high school, most of the charms came from places I visited.  I’ve had a Texas and an Alamo charm for a long time, never suspecting that I would someday make my home here.

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For a number of years, I didn’t wear my charm bracelet.  It was full of charms and heavy and noisy and always seemed to catch on my clothing or that of my children.  When I wore it when my daughter was small, she would sit on my lap and look at each charm and ask me what each one meant.

My charm bracelet

Photo by Jeff Hull, Corinth, Texas

I save my charm bracelet to wear for special occasions now.  My charm bracelet is a bit of a jewelry diary covering the last 44 years of my life.  I enjoy wearing it and looking at the charms and remembering the special events and trips and times I enjoyed in my life that are now documented on my wrist.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:  for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.  ~Matthew 17:20



Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Parent

Our youngest child moved out of the house this past weekend.  She’s 21 and smart and capable, but it was all I could do to keep myself from grabbing her arm as she was leaving, and yelling “No, no, don’t go…you aren’t big enough to live on your own yet!” 


Yes, I do identify with those Subaru commercials where the dad still sees the daughter as a small child as she prepares to drive off in the car. scan0036

I always thought becoming an empty nester would be cause for a party like in those Target and Staples commercials where all the parents are dancing and celebrating at the beginning of the school year.  Yep, we did it…all the baby birds are ready to be independent and fly…and we are ready to have the house all to ourselves.  I wasn’t prepared for the level of sadness I felt at the prospect of my last child really leaving.

I became a parent in January of 1987, and I’ve had children at home for 28 years.  I didn’t rush into parenthood after I got married.  If the truth be told, I was actually focused on finishing college and pretty ambivalent about being a parent.


For years, after I married in 1980, my grandmother would ask if we were going to start a family.  Finally, after five or so years, she must have given up on the idea because she stopped asking.  When I did finally become pregnant, she was very pleased by my news.


The first thing nobody told me was what pregnancy would do to my body…not to mention my mind and my heart.  I actually took my pre-pregnancy jeans to the hospital to wear home two days after giving birth the first time.  I was horrified when there was a good 6 inches of belly between the two open sides of the snap on my jeans.  This left me with a decision…either wear the jeans home undone, or put on the maternity pants I wore to the hospital.  I opted for the maternity pants (ouch) but I was prepared with stretchy waistbands to wear home from the hospital with my next two newborns!


Nobody told me how good my babies would smell.  What causes that anyway?  Is it God’s way of making us love them and want to hold them all the time?

I babysat for years, but I still wasn’t prepared for all the unknowns that came with parenthood.  Why is he still crying if his diaper is dry and he’s been fed? What do we do now?

My husband said, “Don’t you know what to do?”  To which I answered, (probably in descending pregnancy hormone tears) “Why don’t YOU know what to do?”

New York: Pocket Books, 1968.

Thank God for both of our mothers, a good pediatrician, and Dr. Spock’s book.  That crying baby’s a happy, well-adjusted adult now, so we must not have messed up too much.


You hear about “mama bear” and “papa bear” behavior, but you can’t really know until you experience the level of protectiveness and the infinite responsibility and love you feel toward that good smelling, screaming, pooping, and squirming little bundle in your arms.  And NOTHING prepares you for the day your child is:

*Left at daycare or school with complete strangers for the first time.

*Going to their first overnight at a friend’s house where you don’t know the parents.

*Backing out of your driveway alone in a car for the first time.

*Dropped off at college to live on their own away from you.

*Moving out permanently.

As parents, we become so accustomed to continually accessing our children’s needs, moods, wants, and safety.  That is our job or our other job if we have one outside the home too.  Then, they grow up and leave and we are left to figure out what to do with all that pent up parental energy.


Which brings me back to the moment when my daughter was all packed up and preparing to leave for her new apartment.  As I contemplated lying prostrate on the driveway behind her car, she hugged me and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.  I’m coming back to clean my room so I don’t leave a mess.”

She’s coming back tomorrow?  To clean her room?  Really?

Perhaps this will work out okay after all.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

“At the touch of love every one becomes a poet.” ~Plato

Valentine’s Day is on Saturday.  What comes to mind for you?  It makes me think of flowers and chocolate and Valentines and of all the people I love.

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When I was a girl, my heart would beat a little faster when the calendar turned from January to February.  I knew my class would soon be taking our empty shoeboxes to school to decorate for Valentine’s Day.  And what joy it was to transform a plain shoebox into a postal work of art with tissue paper and construction paper and lacy paper hearts with glitter!

A homemade Valentines box for

After that, there was still the excitement of passing out Valentines and seeing my beautifully decorated Valentine mailbox fill up.  Who doesn’t love receiving Valentines?  My teacher friends tell me this tradition is still alive and well in the schools, with decorated cereal boxes and bags and envelopes joining the shoe boxes of old.

When my children were growing up, we would make construction paper Valentines for one another every year.  Our kitchen table would be littered with glitter and glue and heart stickers and ribbons.  We would use those small conversation hearts and look for just the right one to glue to our Valentines for one another.

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I bought a box of conversation hearts the other day just to read the lingo on them again.  Okay, well yes, I wanted to eat them too.  They said things like QT Pie, Dream Boat, Miss You, Say Yes, Marry Me, Soul Mate, Sweet Talk, Wicked Cool, Crazy 4U, XOXO, and Text Me.  Obviously, conversation hearts have stayed current with the modern age!

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The custom and tradition of Valentine greetings has been popular since the Middle Ages, which began in the 5th century.  Back then, Valentines were called “amorous addresses” and were often spoken out loud or sung to the object of one’s affections.  In the 1400’s, written Valentines began to appear, and by the 1600’s it was a widespread tradition in England and other Western countries to exchange notes and gifts on February 14th.

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In our country, Valentines became popular in the mid 1700’s.  At the time, Valentines were still handmade and there were booklets imported from England called Valentine “Writers” to aid in the creative process.  The “Writer” booklets would have a variety of verses and messages to choose from which could then be copied onto fancy paper to make a Valentine.  Some of the “Be My Valentine” verses sent by men of the time included an “acceptance or answer” which the ladies could return to them.  Valentines in the 1800s sometimes included old-time tintype pictures of the sender, or even a lock of hair.

Before the Victorian Era, postage was very expensive so Valentines were hand delivered and left on doorsteps.  Around 1890, postage was more affordable and the practice of sending Valentines through the mail became more popular and widespread.  Between 1890 and 1917, penny postcard Valentines (often with a picture of the sender on them) were the rage because they were mailed with a one-penny postage stamp.

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I can’t write about Valentines and Valentine’s Day without mentioning love letters.  Yesterday on, they printed a poll revealing the ten greatest love letters of all time.  Their number one greatest love letter was a letter written by Johnny Cash to his wife, June Carter on her 65th birthday.  Here’s what it said:

Happy Birthday Princess,

We get old and get used to each other.  We think alike.  We read each other’s minds.  We know what the other wants without asking.  Sometimes we irritate each other a little big.  Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.  You still fascinate and inspire me.  You influence me for the better.  You’re the object of my desire, the number one Earthly reason for my existence.  I love you very much.

Happy Birthday Princess.


Wow.  Who wouldn’t want to receive a letter like that?  Or write one.

So, how about it?  Everyone likes to receive a love letter and everyone can write one.  It doesn’t cost anything except for your time. In this day and age of technology and speed, try picking up a pen and a piece of paper and putting it all out there for your Valentine…sentimental, funny, nostalgic, bold, even sloppy…whatever your style for declaring your love.  And, it’s only Wednesday so you even have time to put it in the snail mail!

Letters tied with ribbon,

Author’s note:  If you need some ideas for how to write a love letter, these come from the book, “Family Traditions” by Elizabeth Berg.

*Write 14 reasons why you love someone…one for each day of February leading up to Valentine’s Day.

*Write about the first time you met and what you liked about the person right away.  Write your favorite things about them today.

*Write about your greatest fantasy place in the world to take your beloved and where you would go and what you would do there.

*Write why you love them, honestly…for their own qualities as well as for the way they make you feel.

*Write what your hopes for the future are with the person you love.


A Song For You


“I love you in a place where there’s no space or time

 I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine

 And when my life is over

 Remember when we were together

 We were alone and I was singing this song for you”

~From “A Song For You”…written by Leon Russell and sung by Karen Carpenter

clipart music notes

Two weeks ago on American Idol (yes, I am still a fan) one of the contestants auditioned by singing “A Song For You”.  KellyeAnn Rodgers is a 24 year-old voice teacher and singer from Memphis, Tennessee.  She made it through to the Hollywood round and she does have a nice voice, but her version cannot even compare with the one inside my head.

I was a teenager in the 1970’s.  The Carpenters were all over the radio then.  Their album “The Singles 1969 – 1973” is still on the top 100 bestselling albums list put out by the Recording Industry Association of America.  Good music stands the test of time.

The Carpenters record “A Song For You” was the first vinyl album I bought for myself.  I was 12 years-old and I bought it at G.L. Perry’s Variety Store in Elkhart, Indiana with money I had earned babysitting for $1.00 an hour.

A Song for You. Studio album

They were a brother/sister singing duo from Downey, California.  Richard Carpenter was four years older and played piano and sang backup to Karen’s soaring vocals.  Karen was originally their drummer while also singing lead, but her vocal talent eventually demanded that she be front and center at the microphone.

Their first hit was “Ticket to Ride” in 1969, followed by “Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”.  Their biggest hits were “Please Mr. Postman” a remake of the Motown hit by The Marvelettes, and “Yesterday Once More”.  I still have my 45 rpm (revolutions per minute for you young folks) record of “Yesterday Once More” which is my favorite song by the Carpenters.  I must have taken it to a party because my name is written on the record in red ink.

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From 1969 to 1983, they recorded 11 albums and 31 singles.  Some of their other hits that you might remember were:  “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “Superstar” (another personal favorite), “Hurting Each Other”, “Goodbye to Love”, “Sing”, “Top of the World”, “I Won’t Last a Day With Out You”, “Only Yesterday”, “There’s a Kind of Hush”, “For All We Know” and “Solitaire”.

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32 years ago today, February 4, 1983, Karen Carpenter died.  She was just 32 years old.  I was a senior in college, and half a semester from graduation.  I had just gotten back from class when I heard the news.  The Carpenters music was being played all over the radio and news reporters were blaming her death on complications of a “dieter’s disease” called Anorexia Nervosa.  I found my well used copy of “A Song For You” and played the scratchy, 11 year-old album and simply listened.

"The Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter’s voice stopped me in my tracks the very first time I heard it…and I confess it still does today.  It takes me back to my youth and it makes me think of my best friend, also named Karen.  I can’t listen to the Carpenters sing without thinking of her and our friendship and all the fun we had together when we were growing up.  Isn’t it funny how certain music can transform us to another place and time?

 Author’s note:  Eight months after Karen’s death in 1983, the Carpenters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Richard is 68 years old now and has a wife and five children.  He still lives in California.