Stephanie Onken of Crookston, MN

I may not have lived long enough quite yet to tell a full and enriching tale about myself, but the people who have come in and out of my life as well as the events of my life make my life nonetheless rich to me.

My birth mother was honorably discharged from the US Army as a Military Police Officer. She had originally been stationed in Germany in 1988 when she found out she was pregnant. In July, I was born in Minnesota and given to an adoptive family that she had specifically picked out. The July Baby Bootie (charm #0473) is an especially important charm to me. I was born in July to a birth mother who I finally met in July 2006, and my adoptive grandfather, father and younger sister all have birthdays in July. When people say things were just meant to be, I believe how I came to my family was no doubt meant to be.

As I was growing up, elementary school and junior high were tough. My family had decided to become foster parents, which at the time seemed like an indifferent twist in life as I had been the oldest of three and was not used to being the middle child. School was enjoyable as I loved learning, but there were times when I just wanted to hide under the blankets away from the students who went there. Music was an amazing escape for me and one that will forever be important in my life. I played French horn (charm #2344) through high school and learned Guitar (charm #2639) from my pastor’s wife and my favorite aunt.

Every summer I would spend a few weeks with my favorite aunt, and it is from her that I learned my love of books and musicals. The first musical I ever went to was the Lion King and I remember it clearly as the actor portraying a giraffe (on stilts, no less) slipped and ended up doing a split (with the stilts). Because of this love for the theater I was also highly involved in the theater department in high school, as well as speech, choir and band. An open book (charm #3160) and a music staff (charm #0263), represent these important people and events in my life more than anything possibly could.

Upon graduating high school, I found myself attending a college 6 hours away from home. I missed my family but met friends who would become like family to me. I also met my first serious boyfriend. He left for Basic Training and AIT six months after we started dating, and at the end of AIT he proposed. We stayed together for two years following but realized our differences, and are no longer together, although we are still amazing friends. Funny how life works out, right? While he was at AIT I rode horses (charm #1778) to relieve stress. It's ironic I would say those beautiful animals relieved stress, since I was bucked off more times than I care to count, and ended up in the emergency room and chiropractor because of these wild rides. Nevertheless, these animals will always be important in my life. Another important animal (or two) in my life are my two cats, Pebbles and Peanut. My ex-fiance and I adopted the two when we were together but there is absolutely no way that I could or would be separated from these two. They look almost alike, although they are quite a few years apart, and Peanut keeps Pebbles limber and young due to her high energy levels. The Cat Charm (charm #0977) reminds me of my Pebbles because of her never-ending belief of her higher status than those she lives with, and I am reminded of Peanut by (charm #8139) because of her unending energy and love for everyone she meets.

While attending college I realized that the world is oh-so-much larger than what I had thought of it while growing up in town with 400 people (or less!). I became heavily involved with helping teach English as a second language, and because of this made many international friends who are very dear to me. I also got the chance to travel to Norway and Denmark to study abroad and while in Denmark visited one of my best friends from high school. The Globe (charm #8281), is important to me because we are all connected to one another whether we realize it or not, and I hope to see more of the world farther along in my life.

The final charm that reminds me of my life overall is a Sunflower (charm #3303). I try to keep a positive outlook on life, love to smile and laugh and keep an open mind by bending with the ebb and tide of the world as it changes. I believe that the sun and consequently a sunflower represent that eternal glow, and that the ability to be optimistic and open-minded stays in my life. It also helps that these beautiful flowers are grown by farmers who live where I attend college, so I am surrounded by fields and fields of their yellow, happy buds every summer.

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