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The Story of My 9 Rings: Sentimental Inspiration

Wearing jewelry can be a therapeutic form of expression

Caroline's inspirational necklace

The daily grind isn’t easy. In fact, is it just me, or does it seem to be getting harder all the time? So, I’m always on the lookout for ways to stay inspired throughout my day. I try to meditate each morning on a passage that will reinforce and renew my spirit. I have positive signs up in my office and a file full of reaffirming mail I turn to when my back is really against the wall. I listen to music that will life me up. And I wear jewelry. That’s right: Jewelry.

There’s an old expression about wearing your heart on your sleeve; I wear my inspiration on mine. I also wear it around my neck, on my fingers, and dangling from my ears.

Jewelry is usually about the show: Folks showing off their success (big diamonds) or showing what they’re about (religious symbols, fraternity pins, school rings) or showing how deeply in love they are (Elizabeth Taylor really missed her calling; she should’ve given women lessons in how to get your man to step up to the level of devotion Richard Burton and her other suitors showed. The 33 carat Krupp diamond? Emeralds the size of doorknobs? $115 million worth of adoration? Now that’s a show!)

My jewelry is less about show than tell. It speaks to me everyday, reminding me to do my best, to remain faithful, and to never forget who I come from and what is expected of me. In my small bag of daily tricks that help hold me together when things feel like they’re falling apart, my jewelry isn’t worth millions but it’s invaluable nonetheless.

Caroline's gold bracelet by Janet Hill Tolbert

I own several pieces designed by my friend Janet Hill Tolbert, a former book editor who started her own company, onthisrocknyc.com, a few years ago. On any given day, I’m likely to wear one of two wide cuffs. The gold one has Psalm 91:11 stamped in a scrolling italic font: “He shall command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” The sterling one’s block letters are as simple and clear as its message: “LOVE conquers a multitude of sins.”

I often wear a necklace (pictured above) Janet created, a simple disc with words from the Biblical book of Matthew, it reminds me not just to dream my dreams and make my goals, but to pursue them with all my heart: “Ask. Seek. Knock.”

Caroline's collection of rings are a sentimental staple in her life

Not all my jewelry issues such direct proclamations. For instance, I never take off a gold band I wear on my left thumb. It was my uncle Ralph Bynoe’s wedding band. He was a great man, steadfast in his love for my Aunt Iris, for his extended family, and dedicated to his career at the United States Post Office, where he worked with great pride, dignity, and commitment for more than 40 years. His ring is a reminder to me to do the same.

There’s also a collection of thin bands I never take off my right hand. They include a set of seven rings my husband gave to me years ago for my birthday, symbolizing his love for me every day of the week. I added two rings to the stack, one that I bought myself in a purposeful splurge meant to say, “I earn it, I deserve it,” and another that my mother gave me. Engraved in tiny block letters around its outer edge are the words, “Don’t Forget to Remember.”

I clearly recall opening her gift, reading the words and turning to her expectantly.

“Remember what,” I asked, sure she was going to say, “I love you.” I was wrong.

“Don’t forget to remember who you are,” she said, her words falling over me like a protective blanket, a cloak to keep me safe and warm, a subtle bit of armor strong and encompassing enough to see me through the toughest battle, or the whole damn war, intact.

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