“Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! How could it be anything else?” – the movie It’s A Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life has always been one of my favorite movies. I love Jimmy Stuart and his story of enthusiastic youth turned to despair, and being lifted back out again by taking stock of his life with the help of the angel Clarence. The story has many truths, about family and friends being the best parts of life, and about how as we use our gifts we take part in some form of a divine dance. Without our parts in that dance, there are holes in the stories of others, and life is not the same. In essence, we are here for a reason.
Tomorrow is my 40th birthday, and as I take stock of my life, I can only do so with wonder. It has been amazing, this story I’ve gotten to live out. My 40th wouldn’t be complete without a photojournal …
It’s a Wonderful Life: 40 Years of My Story
This photo was taken in the backyard of the house where I lived in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. (Proof that my hair has always been wild!)
In Pennsylvania in middle school, I had the privilege of swimming with these lovely ladies under the direction of legendary synchronized swimming coach, Ms. Betty Hess. This photo was taken in Indianapolis at that year’s Olympic Trials. I was in 8th grade (I’m the last one in the photo).
We came in 13th place for the nation. It was one of those WOW moments in my life.
Soon after the Olympic Trials, my family moved again to a small town in Ohio, where events came about that I began modeling with Elite Model Management out of New York City and traveled to Paris and lived in Tokyo, Japan, for three months during high school. This photo is with my roommate for those three months in Tokyo, Leslie Bibb, of Iron Man fame.
We had a blast in Tokyo.
These years were another of those WOW moments.
I met my husband during my stint in engineering school at Purdue. Obviously, he was and continues to be one of the biggest WOW moments of my life.
My grandmothers influenced me in many ways. My maternal grandmother, pictured below, infused a spirit of adventure. She was a pilot with the Women’s Air Service Patrol in World War II.
My other grandmother instilled tenacity and faith and boundless love for family and friends (pictured below). Her father immigrated to the US from Sweden and settled in Western Kansas, where they began their lives in a creek bed and later a sod house.
Another grand woman has had a powerful impact on my life for over twenty years, Dr. Emy Wadsworth, pictured in the center, below. Her friendship has helped me to learn to look for serendipity, to realize the importance of friendships, for nurturing healthy relationships, and is the one who encouraged me to do what I love: write.
Emy’s words are similar to Pa Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life: All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.
I was a contributor, along with the other three friends in the photo, as well as others, in Emy’s book GIVING MUCH, GAINING MORE, published in 2002 on the power of mentoring as a positive force for building meaningful lives. It was my first publishing credit.
From It’s a Wonderful Life:
“Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”
My family. They love me, good and bad, day in and day out. I love them more than words can express. This photograph was taken on my 30th birthday, my 3 boys (my husband Brian is taking the photo). My hands and my heart are full.
Getting to live in Prague for 4 years was another of those WOW times. Truly, it was a dream come true. In the photo below, we are in our first year abroad, in Paris, 2010.
Below, I’m with my friend from Holland, another once-in-a-lifetime friend.
This photo (below) was taken by our middle son a couple of weeks ago, as we’re on our way to the symphony. We’ve been married almost 17 years. Brian has always been my biggest supporter, my closest friend, and my favorite person in the world. I am deeply grateful for him.
The travel has been amazing, the experiences priceless, but what really matters and means something is found in the people I’ve gotten to spend my days alongside.
I wouldn’t trade any of these days or years to be younger. Thank you to all the friends and family who are gifts to me. I wouldn’t be a fraction of who I am today without your part in my life.
You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. -Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life
Yes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!