Heidi Youngkin of Newtown, PA

I came across your "story of your life" contest at a very significant time in my life, and I'd love to share my story with you. My dear father passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks ago, right before Christmas. He was a very special person, and I miss him so much. I spend a lot of time these days thinking about my precious memories of him, how he's helped shape my life, and what's really important to me. If I were lucky enough to win the bracelet, it would memorialize the important moments of my own life, and would pay tribute to my father and the priceless life lessons I've learned from him. My father was a designer and a teacher, but first and foremost he was an Artist (charm #8272). He saw the world through an artist's eye, and he taught many, many students to do the same. He insisted that they always strive for their best work to express their own vision of the world around them. I was not his student in the classroom, but I was his student in life, and he taught me well!

My own story starts in southern California, where I was born. Our house had an old and very fruitful orange tree in the back yard, a surviving remnant of the days when the area was nothing but orange groves (charm #3549). The smell of oranges always takes me back to my childhood, and the gallons of juice that came from that one busy tree!

My great lifelong passion is a love of books (charm #3160) and learning, a passion my parents encouraged and supported. Books are a fulfilling form of entertainment for me, but so much more. I also make my living with words - in communications. Capturing interesting thoughts and concepts in words, building new ideas together with other people, and hopefully creating new ways for people to learn, teach, and share - this is my favorite creative outlet!

Lucky people have at least a one or two "big moments" that change their lives. My biggest one happened on an airplane (charm #8326) in 1996, when I met my future husband sitting in the seat next to me! I was on my way from California to Belgium on a business trip, and he was just returning from a visit in California to his native Belgium. One special plane ride and one amazing year later, we married in California and I moved to Belgium with him. I could fill a very long bracelet just with charms representing the qualities of my special husband! He's my lifelong partner, and also best friend. But I've chosen this lily (charm #4580) to represent him because he's a gifted gardener and landscaper, who can make pretty much anything grow and flourish. Lilies are one of his favorites flowers, and there have always been plenty of them in the gardens he's created for me, both in Belgium and the US.

My husband was a widower when I met him, with two small children who spoke no English! Instant family! We had an amazing time as my new children learned English, I learned Flemish, and we also used our mutual understanding of French to communicate with and love each other. I was delighted by this charm Maman Nous T Aimons (charm #6116), as it honors my children and perfectly expresses that time when we all grew together as a family.

I traveled a great deal professionally and personally when we lived in Europe, and I really took advantage of that opportunity to see the world (charm #8334). It was a great experience to see many countries and appreciate how other people live. "You're building your memories," my father would say to me each time I shared my adventures with him. "Build the memories now that you'll be happy to look back on later." We moved back to the U.S. several years ago. As much fun as I had on my sojourn abroad, there's no place like our wonderful country! My family is very happy here, and although home is anywhere that we're together, this country is truly home to all of us. My kids became overnight Americans! Our home has become even more special these days, as my sweet mom has come to live with us after my father's passing. We wish he were here, too, but we cherish his memory and are taking care of mom. Our home (charm #0733) is full, happy, and very, very blessed.

Like so many women, my life gets too hectic, full of competing priorities and demands. It's easy to get off track, and get caught up in many things that really aren't all that important in the big scheme of things. The compass charm (charm #8327) is a touchstone, a reminder for me to stay on course for my journey through life, and keep pointing my time and energy towards the things with true value - family, friends, and relationships, and using my gifts and blessings to give back for the many amazing things I've given.

The last charm is the crystal ball (charm #3538), and it represents the future, and one more lesson my father taught me. No one knows what the future will bring, or how long one's life will be. My father always lived his life facing forward, looking to the next day with eagerness and anticipation. He taught me to do the same - enjoy today to the fullest, remember the past with pleasure but don't dwell there, and always face towards the promise of tomorrow. So this last charm is that promise. It represents all the wonderful events yet to happen to me, blessings for me to give and get, and memories yet to be built in my life!

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